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COVER STORY: Spreading the warmth on the North Shore
Last year, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. There were boxes of kids’ coats packed away in the stockroom, all ready to ship out for a second life keeping another toddler or teenager warm — just like the year before.
But this time around, the Coats for Kids collection bin at the West 49 store in Park Royal mall has far from runneth over.
It’s not that there are no coats coming in, they’re just not coming in the same numbers as years prior.
“In the past we’d always have a bunch boxed up by now, so this year’s definitely been slower,” says Amber Pattison, a manager at the West Vancouver store. “It’s kind of a bummer because obviously winter is coming.”
So while many are welcoming the lingering fall weather and maybe putting off replacing their old winter coat, for charity drives like West 49’s, the warmer weather has put a freeze on donations.
“People just aren’t coming in and looking for new coats and bringing their old one in yet,” Pattison tells The Outlook inside the Park Royal outlet.
She had hoped the late arrival of the season wouldn’t prevent the Canadian company from reaching its nationwide goal of bringing in at least 10,000 coats for the needy.
“Hopefully other West 49s aren’t facing the same problem,” she says, noting the company has been collecting all sizes of gently used jackets and offers customers a $25 discount per donated coat.
“Everything from really tiny ones to men’s and ladies’ — anything helps.”
Being a store that specializes in snowboarding apparel, much of what gets donated is naturally the same type of warm, apline attire, some even looking like it was bought recently from other West 49 stores.
“Some of these will be brand new styles,” Pattison says, rooting through the big round drum that serves as the store donation bin. “A lot of these I recognize from last year.”
But by the last day of the drive on Wednesday, the company had only collected about 4,500 coats, shy even by half of its 10,000-coat goal, although a final tally remained to be taken by press time.
From 2002 to 2011, West 49’s Coats for Kids put more than 80,000 coats on the backs of those in need, according to a company spokesperson.
Across Canada, the coats campaign helps large established charities like the Salvation Army, United Way, Covenant House and Big Brothers Big Sisters, as well as dozens of local non-profits.
This year, staff at the Park Royal West 49 store picked foster-child charity Aunt Leah’s Place, donating the collected coats to the company’s New Westminster warehouse.
From there, the coats are either given directly to children and mothers in need or are resold at the charity’s Vancouver thrift store, with the proceeds going to support programs for mothers and kids in foster care.
Aunt Leah’s Place coordinator Angelina Oates says she’s not sure who at the West 49 store chose her charity as the recipient of the donated coats or why. But one thing is for sure; she’s grateful they did.
Serving as a lifeline for vulnerable kids in foster care and young mothers and their newborns, Aunt Leah’s counts on volunteers and donations to support an array of social programs for about 200 children and mothers a year, as well as two residential houses for pregnant and parenting teen moms.