An initiative led by an Edmonton woman is helping the city’s homeless community stay warm.
Jasmine Topham started #bundleupyeg five years ago with the hope of helping a few homeless Edmontonians by collecting some winter clothes from friends and family.
“I was sitting in the kitchen and heard a callout from some shelters that they were in dire need of clothing because it was so cold, and I thought, ‘I have two weeks of spare time, maybe I’ll just put the call out to my friends and family to see if they have any winter clothing. I’ll go pick it up and deliver it,'” Topham said.
With the help of her husband and parents, Topham collected 40 bags of winter clothes over a two-week period during that first year.
Since then the project has grown exponentially. This year, with the help of 13 friends and family members, #bundleupyeg collected 1,280 bags of clothing, which is about 12,800 items of clothing over 48 days. That’s more than the previous four years combined.
“Oh my gosh, I’m still surprised. Honestly, I don’t think it’s sunk in,” Topham said.
Topham credits her group of volunteers, who made 220 trips to pick up clothing and 61 trips to drop off the bags at local shelters, as well as other factors.
“I think it was a combination of more volunteers, we have a ton of support from local shelters as well as our collection box hosts, and I think, again, just as people have gotten to know us, they talk to their friends,” she said.
She also says social media has played an important role in allowing the initiative to grow.
“Now that’s how people find us. We’ve asked a lot of our donors ‘How did you hear about us?’ And like 90 per cent of them say social media,'” Topham said. “It just goes to show the power and the good that social media can have.”
The Bissell Centre has been one of the shelters that’s benefited from #bundleupyeg.
“It’s amazing with #bundleupyeg and collaboration with Edmontonians to come together and to donate clothing. It means so much for people in our community,” Bissell Centre communications co-ordinator Darren Brennan said.
Brennan and Topham say although #bundleupyeg’s clothing drive is over for the season, Edmonton’s homeless community will still be in need of winter clothes after the holiday season.