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Summerside's Free Store welcomes hundreds in search of warm bedding and coats

Free Store owner Belinda Woods folding items of warm bedding.
Free Store owner Belinda Woods folding items of warm bedding. - Desiree Anstey
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Bitter cold and extreme weather has resulted in hundreds of people searching for warm items in Summerside’s Free Store.

Belinda Woods, the owner of the store located at 109 Water Street, said people may wait an hour or more in the freezing cold for the doors to open.

"It’s only if you are really in need that you would wait in such extreme temperatures just to be able to come in and get items," she said.

“We’ve had up to 100 people out in the cold waiting, and there could be another 100 that come through the store in the hours we are open. There are people out there with children, so it’s very sad because they are freezing.”

Donations the store is most in need of are blankets, winter coats, and toys for kids – all in good condition.
Donations the store is most in need of are blankets, winter coats, and toys for kids – all in good condition.

Donations the store is most in need of are blankets, winter coats, and toys for kids that are all in good condition.

“The cold must have really inspired people, but what we need right now is good bedding. Every time we finally get our shelves filled they are empty again the very next day. The same with winter coats. I can estimate at least 200 coats have come through and been taken.”

While utility costs are higher this time of year – with heating up and lights on – the Free Store can help lift the financial burden, so many don’t have to choose between paying bills or buying warm clothes.

“I was a single mom before I met my husband Pat, and I would have loved to have a resource like this store. It’s so useful and we make people happy, so who doesn’t want to do that.”

Woods said that donations have come in from across the Island.

“We have such a wonderful community. We have drop-offs every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and a lady from Vernon Bridge brought items in and that was such a lovely surprise. The volunteers also find it therapeutic to be here, and they enjoy helping the community.”

There’s no judgment when someone walks through the doors of the store, said Pat Woods. “We don’t check to see your background. The only thing we ask is that items are not to be resold."

FACT BOX

  • The store is in need of warm winter bedding, coats, and toys for children
  • Drop-offs and sorting are every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • No cash donations
  • The Free Store opens the second and fourth Saturday of each month, from 1 to 4 p.m., as well as the third Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
  • Customers with a genuine need for an item can be placed on a waiting list
  • No items at the store are to be re-sold.

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