AMHERST – Colleen Dowe continues to be impressed with the generosity of the community when it comes to keeping people warm.
Another edition of Coats for Cumberland has wrapped up and the chair of the Empowering Beyond Barriers society believes her organization had one of its biggest years yet.
“It went very well at all our sites, especially in Amherst where it was probably our biggest year since we started,” said Dowe. “We can’t help everyone, but we certainly to try.”
On average, the program distributes approximately 1,000 jackets across the county with “store” locations at the Amherst Centre Mall, NSCC in Springhill as well as in Pugwash, Parrsboro, Oxford and Wentworth.
Not all locations keep track of the number of clothing items that go out the door, but Dowe said anecdotal reports show that the demand is steady and most of the clothing items are gone after distribution day.
In Amherst, 367 coats were distributed on Nov. 17. That number has since increased to 466 – compared to 279 last year and 300 in 2015.
Also distributed were 58 pairs of snowpants, 57 pairs of boots, 211 hats, 206 pairs of mittens/gloves and 99 scarves.
She said the community showed amazing support for the program as well by bringing their winter clothing to drop-off bins that were located at places such as Sobey’s in the Amherst Centre mall and the Amherst Stadium.
Dowe also thanked the mall for again being a huge supporter of the program by providing space for the Amherst store.
“It started a little slow in October but I think that had a lot to do with the fact the weather was warmer than usual. Once we had that first bit of cold weather the clothing started coming in pretty fast,” she said. “Places like Sobey’s could empty the bins fast enough.”
Clothing items that remain at the Amherst location are being distributed to the Amherst food bank as well as to the Bridge Workshop and Salvation Army.
Dowe said Empowering Beyond Barriers has worked hard to reduce the stigmas associated with living in poverty and strove to make sure people knew the jackets and gently-used winter clothing were available for anyone, no matter their socio-economic situation.
“People are very grateful for the opportunity to pick up some winter clothes and many left some pretty nice notes, some of which were very moving,” Dowe said.
Coats for Cumberland began 11 years ago when the former Poverty Action Committee discovered the Lions Club could no longer continue its Coats for Kids campaign. While the membership only had a few weeks to get organized the first year was a success and has been growing steadily since then.
She said there are some pretty amazing people who volunteer at this time of year to support Coats for Cumberland and make sure everyone has winter clothing.
“There are some people who’ve been with us from the beginning and every year they go above and beyond to make sure this program is successful and they go out of their way to make sure no one goes cold during the winter,” she said.