By Michael Nesbitt
SUMMERSIDE – Though the Coats for Kids initiative has been absent for several years, a revival by volunteers demonstrated that the need is still as present as ever.
Over a two-hour display period, between 50-75 families found winter wear that might not otherwise have been available.
The initiative was organized by Sandra Gallagher, Chyianne Terris and Claudette Warrick, who turned a mutual interest into community action.
Gallagher and Terris met through social media, each interested in the concept of donation and free distribution of winter wear. Terris had items to donate, while Gallagher had been wondering about the Coats for Kids concept.
Their interests intersected on a Facebook page created for Summerside area families to connect on buying, selling and swapping items for kids.
Gallagher learned that the project was no longer being organized by the original service group, so she contacted a member and was given the go-ahead to revive the concept. She then contacted Mayor Basil Stewart to start the process of finding space to hold the event, eventually securing a meeting room at Credit Union Place.
Brothers Two restaurant, where Terris works, donated the printing of brochures that were placed in area churches, and the two women appealed to the public through local media outlets.
Warrick got involved to help collect and store donations, a consideration that reportedly contributed to the service group discontinuing the annual effort.
The trio offered their own residences as collection points, as well as arranging collection at the YMCA. In addition to used items, they also received significant donations of new items to add to the mix.
Barely three weeks after starting, they had enough winter outfits and accessories to fill tables arranged along the perimeter of the meeting room.
“We even have them stored beneath the tables so we can re-stock,” said Gallagher.
As she and Terris set up the venue, approximately 20 clients gathered at the door for the 1 p.m. opening. To manage the flow, the volunteers only allowed a certain number of guests into the room at any one time, allowing them a comfortable setting to sort through clothing on display and check for the necessary fit.
Approximately 50 to 70 families were finally outfitted, with each visitor allowed one set of clothing, or any portion they could find in the correct size. Although most of the donated items were for pre-teens, Gallagher was thrilled to have been able to outfit a family with teen-aged children. One wheelchair-bound recipient who could not get to the event because of the weather was also accommodated.
Donations were so plentiful, there was still clothing left over after the event. The remaining items were forwarded to clothing donation bins run by local non-profit groups.
Gallagher and Terris both considered the effort a complete success and are planning to organize the event again next year.