Ella Wall knows what it’s like to be without proper winter gear.
“I’ve been out in the cold wishing I had gloves.”
She’s had her own struggles throughout life, so she can relate to people in need who may not have a toque or a place to sleep during the cold, P.E.I. winters.
But Wall has a warm and caring heart, she said.
“I wanted to give back.”
So, she’s been volunteering with Gifts from the Heart, a Charlottetown-based charity that services low-income Islanders by helping to provide people with materials they may need.
Betty Begg-Brooks, founder of the non-profit, has been helping people stay warm the same way for the past five years by hanging bags of items like gloves, toques, and scarves in various parks around Charlottetown.
“So, if people are cold they can just reach up and grab what they need.”
Begg-Brooks, Wall and other volunteers were out to hang some items at Hillsborough Square in Charlottetown on Nov. 17. They used clothespins to attach the bags to the branches of smaller trees, ensuring they’re within reach of both adults and children.
“Every couple of days we try to reach a different part of the city,” Begg-Brooks said.
Originally, Begg-Brooks would work on her own to hang the items directly to trees before big winter storms. Now she’s doing it semi-regularly with the help of volunteers, and they’re bagging sets of winter items together.
“This way they don’t get wet,” she said.
Gifts from the Heart receives the items by donation. Volunteers usually check on the trees a few days after they hung bags on them to make sure there’s no mess and to retrieve leftover clothespins.
Usually, they don’t retrieve as many clothespins as they put out, Begg-Brooks said.
“I don’t care about that, as long as (people) get something warm on them.”
Absolutely anyone who needs the items are welcome to take them – whether it’s someone in need, or just someone who forgot to buy gloves and happen to find a pair hanging around.
“This is one way of perking their day up,” Wall said. “It’s the small, simple things that make a difference.”
Every now and again, someone who benefited from the items would approach Begg-Brooks to thank her personally. She used to operate out of her own house, but Gifts from the Heart recently opened a store at 58 Spring Lane in Charlottetown that gives away clothes, food and other items for free.
Now that there there are more volunteers across P.E.I., she’s open to the idea of hanging winter gear in other areas across the Island, she said.
“That’s something we could look into maybe doing for next year.”