Donations increase, but so has need

Natalie Clyke (PAGC Urban Services), Lyle Karasiuk (Parkland Ambulance) and Donna Hordyski (Gateway Mall) stand in front of a large pile of donated clothing, footwear and blankets at Parkland’s storage facility on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo Susan McNeil

This year saw a very large pile of donated clothing, blankets and footwear in Parkland Ambulance’s storage bay, ready to be transported to the Moose Lodge for dispersal to people in need. 

However, PAGC Urban Services co-ordinator Natalie Clyke says they have seen a jump in demand for services in the last four months. 

“It has been probably the last four months that we’ve seen such a growth and a need for support with the diverse situations that we’re experiencing in our city,” Clyke said. 

There are various reasons for increased demand but some of it is due the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It is a very complex situation that we’re working with through the pandemic and those needs and what you’re able to carry, reach a limit,” she said. 

Clyke was happy to see a pair of size 10 Baffin winter boots in the pile as she had a man at the warming shelter who needed a pair exactly that size. 

Footwear is always in high demand amongst the 55 plus people she sees every day but clothing and blankets are also needed. 

The blankets are taken to the Stepping Stones shelter, which has 22 beds with bedding that needs to washed daily. 

Even the significant pile of bags of clothing and blankets gathered at Gateway Mall, starting Nov. 11 and continuing through to the start of January, will be gone in several months.

“We deal with probably 55 plus individuals a day. Even if 10 of those people need a pair of pants and 20 of those people need a bunny hug, we can go through six to seven bags of clothing in a two day period,” said Clyke.  

At the Moose Boutique, a clothing area set up by the PAGC, people come and choose what they need or want. 

“The dignity that goes into the shared space is the same that we would get if we go shopping with a friend for a top or a shirt. It’s the same conversation that we’re having at the Boutique,” said Clyke. 

The clothing collection programming has been running for 14 years, started by Parkland Ambulance, CTV and Gateway Mall. 

This year, a lot of people started looking to donate early, said Donna Hordyski, marketing manager for the mall. 

“We get phone calls prior to Nov. 11 and we get phone calls after the program is done. We are always willing to take whatever things people are wanting to drop off. We will get them to Moose Lodge,” she said. 

This year, three days after the bin was put out, Hordyski was already calling Lyle Karasiuk at Parkland Ambulance to empty it.

They continue because they continue to see the need and want to support the community.  

“It’s one of the programs that we really hold dear to our heart. This is part of Prince Albert. This is part of what we do and Gateway Mall is very proud to be a part of that,” said Hordyski. 

Three truckloads of donations were taken to Parkland’s storage building, where they joined items donated by the ambulance service’s staff and other people and were held until they were ready to be taken to the recipient. 

“We always look for ways to give back to the community. That’s been our motto for years,” said Lyle Karasiuk, a spokesperson for Parkland Ambulance. “We’re so proud and honoured to be part of the community that we live and work in each and every day. This is just one small way we can contribute back to the community.  It’s a small thing on our part.” 

Paramedics from Parkland deal frequently with people who are stuck in the cold and for them, caring means helping in more than medical ways. 

“Those are the people who are most vulnerable, especially when it’s so brutally cold outside that they have nothing and we see them. Those are some of our people that we care for each and every day,” said Karasiuk. 

“For us to be able to steer them in the direction of getting them warm, getting them comfortable, getting them dry and getting them something to eat. Those are the basic human needs.”

Clyke said the amount of effort put out by both Parkland and Gateway Mall should not be underestimated. 

“It is unfathomable the amount of work that goes into collecting this. There is a lot of work between the Gateway Mall and Parkland Ambulance to get this organized,” she said. 

“This is essential. Kindness is essential and our city has really, profoundly, come together and done amazing.”

Despite the size of the pile of donations, most items will be gone in two months so they are looking for continual donations from the community. 

To donate, people can reach out through Facebook at PAGC Urban Services Community Cares Kitchen and also call Clyke at 306-930-1339 so that pick up or drop off can be arranged.