Imagine a long, bitter winter for a child with inadequate or outgrown coats and boots.
It was just such a mental picture that led Rod Baker of Baker Cleaners to join forces with retired McDonald's manager Kim Harvey and Salvation Army director of community and family services Dave Alexander to do something about it with the annual Coats For Kids drive they launched at the beginning of each school year.
This year, the three joined a host of supporters and volunteers at the Cobourg Community and Family Services office to launch the 25th annual campaign.
It's been a wonderful 25 years, director of community and family services Edward Nkyi said, each of which has seen about 500 individual distributions of coats (as well as the warm hats and mittens that are also available). Seeug the smiles on the faces of the parents and children reminds organizers of why this program is so important – as well as just the sheer numbers.
“Imagine 500 people lining up, then multiply that by 25,” Nkyi told the group.
“That is the impact you have made in the community.”
Baker well remembers the original inspiration for the program. On a wintry morning a quarter-century ago, he drove past a Cobourg school on his way to breakfast at McDonald's and was shocked to see a few of the children were shivering in light fall jackets during recess.
He ordered his breakfast and said hello to Harvey – who said he'd join him shortly.
Harvey found his ebullient friend to be unusually quiet. He asked what was wrong, and heard a very distressing story.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” Harvey challenged.
They brainstormed, made a call to Alexander and came up with the framework of a program whose success can be numbered in the thousands – solicit donations of good used coats (with a gift certificate for a McDonald's treat given as a reward), deliver them to Baker for professional cleaning, then organize a distribution to those who need the coats most through Alexander's Salvation Army network.
They got 75 coats their first week, Baker recalled.
That framework has been enhanced over the years with new partners - Beebe's Boot Shop Ltd., for example, sanitizes donations of good used boots. And community and family services manager Lisa Graham displayed this year's reward for donations made – Tim Hortons has donated a supply of $2 gift cards that will say thank-you with a coffee or a sweet treat.
Baker also recalls a highlight of their second year, when a woman asked to see him in his shop. Though she had a job and was able to provide a warm coat for her daughter, she said that hadn't been the case the previous year. She expressed her gratitude for the coat that had kept her daughter warm over that difficult winter and now wanted to donate it back to the program in person.
“She's the reason we are still going today,” Baker declared.
If you have good clean used coats with working zippers and no tears, snow pants or boots in good used condition, or hats, scarves and mitts you can donate, a number of community partners will accept them between Sept. 16 and 27:
In Port Hope, you can drop them off at the Port Hope Salvation Army Community and Family Services office (100 Peter St.) Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as at the We Fix U (125 Toronto Rd.) Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and at the Community Care Northumberland office (151 Rose Glen Rd.) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre (99 Toronto Rd.) will also accept donations during designated hours – Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In Cobourg, Beebe's Boot Shop (33 King St. W.) will accept donations of boots only during regular business hours. In addition, there are seven other Cobourg locations.
The Salvation Army Church (59 Ballantine St.) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Salvation Army Community and Family Services office (66 Swayne St,) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Northumberland United Way (62 Swayne St.) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Canadian Tire (1125 Elgin St. W.) Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Baker Cleaners (12 Elgin St. E.) on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
We Fix U (727 William St,) Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 pm.
The Community Care Northumberland office (1005 Elgin St. W., Suite 203) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Distributions of the winter wear will be made during the month of October through both Cobourg and Port Hope Salvation Army Community and Family Services offices on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.