Instead of taking up space in the closets and storage spaces of homes around Victoria, outgrown or unused coats and other winter apparel will soon be given a second life to keep homeless and disadvantaged people around the city warm this winter.
For the 11th year, the Victoria Cool Aid Society is holding their annual coat drive. Better known as Cool Aid, this charitable organization has worked to end homelessness and assist disadvantaged individuals around Victoria for over 50 years.
Victorians can participate in the coat drive, which is already in full swing, by dropping off donations in Cool Aid’s downtown office at 465 Swift Street near Chinatown until Jan. 14. The offices are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and close for lunch on Tuesdays between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.
In addition to coats, Cool Aid also implores the community to donate hats, gloves, scarves, socks, shoes and boots, sweaters, blankets, and sleeping bags.
“[The drive] benefits our folks who are dealing with poverty and homelessness,” says Wendy Stone, who is coordinating the drive. “It offers them some comfort and warmth, especially during the winter months when the weather is really inclement.”
On Jan. 15, Cool Aid will give out the accumulated donations to Victorians in need at the Downtown Community Center on Pandora Avenue. Volunteers will arrange jackets and coats on racks by gender and size, and display the other winter apparel and bedding on tables where community members can help themselves.
“[We get donations from] people whose partners have passed away, and it’s like their legacy continues in trying to do good in our community.”
“It gives them an opportunity to pick out things they would like, so they get to shop without having to worry about the cost,” says Stone. “It’s very rewarding, people are so appreciative and thankful.”
Any donations left after the event will continue to be distributed around Victoria by Cool Aid and its partners in the community.
“It’s nice to see both sides,” says Stone, in regards to her role in coordinating the drive. “We see the donations coming in from people in Victoria who are really motivated to help and support folks, and then on the other side I get to connect with the folks who are receiving them and really appreciating and feeling so thankful.”
In some cases, donated items can carry personal significance and sentimentality from their previous owners. As they are passed on, donations are given new meaning and purpose along with the individual histories they possess.
“There are some stories that go along with some of the donations, so it’s really heartwarming,” Stone said. “[We get donations from] people whose partners have passed away, and it’s like their legacy continues in trying to do good in our community.”
In previous years, the coat drive has typically garnered around 200 to 400 donations, which is able to help the 100 to 250 attendees of Cool Aid’s event, with additional donations distributed later on. According to Stone, Cool Aid aims to amass between 200-300 coats this year.
“The more donations, the more people we can help,” said Stone. “In that way, I think it’s aligned with the values of Cool Aid — supporting people where they’re at and offering them opportunities to be supported.”