Warming bodies and hearts

Tables-worth of donations at the Prince Albert Indian Metis Friendship Centre were gone as people were looking to bundle up to protect against the cold. Photo courtey Sheryl Kimbley.

Collections for a handful of initiatives underway

Christmas may be over a month away, but the season of giving is already underway.

Across the city, several individuals and organizations are doing their part to provide warm clothes and gifts for others.

One such project popped up at the Prince Albert Indian Métis Friendship Centre Tuesday. That clothing drive, conducted as a partnership between the friendship centre and the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission, saw tables worth of clothing donated, and given away, over the course of just one day.

That project is continuing today, as the friendship centre hopes to ensure people in need have warm clothes to stand up to the winter weather.

“As soon as s we put them on the table, they’re gone,” said Sheryl Kimbley, who was helping the women’s commission with the project.

‘We can’t put them out fast enough,” added Georgette Arcand of the friendship centre.

‘The need is really great. It’s cold out there.”

It’s not just winter wear that was popular. Other articles of clothing, such as shorts and t-shirts were also in demand, as people put on layers to keep out the cold.

Kimbley said young people were walking in without coats and young parents were saying they didn’t have anything for their kids at home.

“If we see a need for this, we’ll try to do this often.,” Kimbley said. She said that for PAGC, the partnership with the friendship centre makes sense because of its central location and relationship with the people it serves.

“Together, we’re able to do more for the people coming in who need these kinds of services.”

Kimbley encouraged people to go through their closet to see what they’re not using and can spare for people freezing outside.

“It’s a hard time for everybody,” she said. “Let’s try to take care of each other.”

According to Arcand, the kindness hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“They’re grateful. We get thank-yous from everyone who leaves,” he said.

“They’re happy they got something they can use throughout the winter.”

While that clothing drive continues today, it’s not the only initiative underway to ensure people have what they need to stay warm.

Parkland Ambulance has partnered up with CTV and the Gateway Mall for its annual Wrapped up for the Holidays collection. Bins have been set up at Parkland Ambulance, the Gateway mall and CTV Prince Albert to collect new or gently used, clean winter wear. The collected donations will be distributed to local organizations for distribution to residents in need.

“We’re very, very pleased to be once again partnering with our good friends to do that sort of thing,” Parkland Ambulance’s Lyle Karasiuk said.

“Our community can use the winter gear. We have no trouble giving it away every single year, whether it’s 20 blankets or 1,000 blankets”

In previous years, the gear has been distributed at the Community Christmas Dinner.

This year, for the second time, a second initiative will ensure men and women who attend the dinner will be able to leave with a little something for themselves.

That’s because of the Christmas Gift Bags for the guys and for the ladies, a project started by City councillor Charlene Miller that’s also been adopted by Coun. Evert Botha and community activist Conrad Burns. The program was successful in its inaugural year during 2017, and the organizers are hoping to build off of that momentum this year.

“Last year we were overwhelmed by the positive response, and we wanted to start a little bit earlier this year. We’re ready to roll as of today,” Botha said.

Last year, the bags for men project ended up filling just shy of 140 backpacks and duffel bags. Their target was 125.

The gifts for gals project also did well. Coun. Miller ended up with about 50 extra purses from that project she’s hoping to fill and use this year.

“I was very happy. It was an extremely giving day and the ladies were extremely appreciative of what they got,” she said.

Miller was inspired to start the project after being given ten gift bags filled with things like toiletries and other supplies to distribute at a prior dinner. She saw how the recipients lit up with joy and wanted to spread that feeling further.

It helps to add an extra element to the Community Christmas Dinner.

“Everything is taken care of,” Miller said. “All the kids are taken care of, everybody’s bellies are full, but the ladies and the guys don’t really get anything for themselves. This is an initiative giving to the older people too.”

Botha agreed.

“The intention is to create and provide a gift with all of the vital necessities many of us receive… and to create a special experience for (people) who attend the annual community supper.”

The gift bags for the guys collection drive is looking for:

  • Gym bags or backpacks
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Socks
  • Toques
  • Scarves
  • Toiletries
  • Chocolates and candy

The gift bags for the ladies initiative is seeking

  • Handbags and purses
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Socks
  • Toques
  • Scarves
  • Toiletries and make-up
  • Chocolates and candy

To make a donation or contribution to the gift bags for guys, contact Botha at 306-980-5387 or Burns at 306-941-0780. To contribute to the gift bags for ladies, call Miller at 306-980-3636.