Wrapped up for the holidays aims to keep vulnerable residents warm

A Prince Albert YWCA volunteer helps load bundles of toques, mittens, and scarves that were donated through the annual Wrapped Up for the Holidays winter campaign. The donations will go towards YWCA clients at Stepping Stones Shelter. The rest will be donated to residents in need throughout the community. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Some of Prince Albert’s most vulnerable residents will be a bit warmer this week, despite the cold weather, thanks to Wrapped up for the Holidays.

The annual Christmas partnership between Parkland Ambulance, the Gateway Mall, Anderson Motors Ltd., and CTV handed off bags of donated scarves, toques, boots, and gloves as the annual nine-week campaign ended on Tuesday. Parkland Ambulance’s Lyle Karasiuk said the campaign started slow, but built momentum as the weeks went by.

“Come about the early part of December … and we’re looking at the pile and we’re saying, ‘gee, the pile doesn’t seem to be that big compared to previous years’ and Donna (Gateway Mall marketing coordinator Donna Hordyski) hasn’t called from the mall to say, ‘come get another load of stuff,’” Karasiuk said. “But you know what? Just like any fundraising or donation activity in the City of Prince Albert, the community overwhelms us every time. We’re so grateful and so happy that they step up.”

The first ever Wrapped up for the Holidays campaign focused on collecting blankets for the homeless. Since then, the campaign has expanded to included winter gear of all kinds. Karasiuk said mittens and toques outnumber blankets most years, but that’s fine because winter gear of all kinds is always needed.

From left to right, Anderson Motors managing partner Mitchell Jones, Gateway Mall marketing coordinator Donna Hordyski, and Parkland Ambulance Director of Public Affairs Lyle Karasiuk pose for a photo with bags of winter clothing donated by Prince Albert residents as part of the 2023-24 Wrapped up for the Holidays campaign. — Daily Herald Staff photo.

“The community from Prince Albert—and near and far out in the rural areas—that come into the city and drop stuff off for us, it’s absolutely amazing,” Karasiuk said. “The pile of goodies as I call them. From coats to boots to shoes to hand-made stuff to gently-used stuff to brand new stuff, people are always amazingly donating stuff to us, and it’s all going to disappear and be used quite quickly.”

This year’s recipient was the YWCA’s Stepping Stones Shelter. Volunteers were on hand packing bag after bag of winter gear for transportation at the Parkland Ambulance East Flat location on Tuesday morning.

YWCA CEO Donna Brooks said their clients need every piece of warm clothing they can get.

 “When we have a cold snap such as we are seeing, the demand for toques, gloves, warm clothing and blankets increases significantly,” Brooks wrote in an email to the Herald. “It is important that we have these items on hand to give out. A donation like this makes a huge difference in being able to provide these items.

“Many do not have good quality winter clothing,” she added. “They are showing up lacking some of the basic essentials to keep them warm.”

There will be a few other beneficiaries too. Karasiuk said some blankets with more wear and tear on them will be sent to the SPCA.

However, Karasiuk said their biggest concern were Prince Albert’s most vulnerable residents. He said these donations will make a big difference for them.

“For people to provide the donations, is incredible, but for those who benefit from it when they have nothing or they need a dry pair of socks or they need a toque, as they’ve seen for the last several days when we’ve had brutal cold … it’s going to do a lot to keep them warm, to keep them safe, and to give them a hand up,” he said.