The campaign aims to ensure people with limited resources have access to the proper winter outerwear they need to get through the cold winter season.
The initiative started in 1992 in response to an overwhelming need for winter wear by people in Edmonton, many of whom simply can’t afford to buy winter clothing.
The annual campaign runs until February. Once items are collected, they’re organized and delivered to social agencies in Edmonton that distribute them to the people who really need them.
In 2021, 4,860 winter coats were collected and handed out.
This year, the United Way anticipates an even greater need.
“We know that people are still feeling the ripple effects of the pandemic, cost of living is through the roof and we have so many newcomers to the area that the need is skyrocketing,” said United Way program manager Suzi Medhurst.
Some of the items needed include:
- Men’s winter coats
- Women’s winter coats
- Children’s winter coats
- Snow pants
- Winter boots
- Insulated work wear
- Insulated work boots
Medhurst said one of the least-donated and most in-need items is men’s clothing.
“Definitely men’s coats and of course, mittens and gloves for those community members that are sleeping maybe on the streets or spending a lot of time outside,” she said.
The Mustard Seed helps people experiencing poverty and homelessness and said the overnight change from balmy fall conditions to winter weather caught the agency off guard, leaving them desperate for winter clothing donations.
“We’re really desperate for donations of winter clothing. We just weren’t expecting -25 C on the second week in November,” said program director Kris Knutson.
Demand in the inner city is high right now, he added, adding what little supplies they had were quickly handed out to those who are homeless.
“For us, it’s the adults and adult males. That’s 80 per cent of our population that we serve are in need of clothes they can wear on the street.”
Knutson said the Mustard Seed is looking for all sorts of winter clothing: socks, underwear, long underwear, jeans, pants, shirts, jackets, mittens — everything needed for winter.
“Our folks go through them rapidly just because they don’t have a place to change them and often lose on or they get stolen. So those are some of our most important needs.”
The United Way said asks for clothing are flooding in — the program kicked off earlier this week and already, there have been 5,000 requests. The organization will not accept any outwear or clothing that is not meant for winter.
Donations can be taken to one of many drop-off locations in the Edmonton region. Coats can also be dropped off at the United Way’s InKind Exchange, by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 780-990-1000.