The 11th annual Winter Coat Drive at the Orillia Learning Centre/Simcoe Shores Secondary School is back, with bells on, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“So far this year, since mid-November, we have distributed 560 coats and we have probably about 200 coats still to give away,” said Orillia Learning Centre co-ordinator Sue Learmonth.
Donated men’s, women’s and children’s coats are gathered at the Learning Centre/Simcoe Shores Secondary School and then taken by students to be washed at the Laundry Lounge before being hung up, ready to give away, back at the Learning Centre/Simcoe Shores.
Simcoe Shores SS students Lily Sterling and Malachi Murphy have been heavily involved with the coat drive this year.
“We’ve been sorting coats, washing them over at the laundromat, bringing them here and hanging them up for men, women, and children to come get them for free,” said Murphy.
“I do it because they needed the help, and it feels good to help the community. It’s a pretty cool experience,” he added.
“It feels really good, helping the community out,” added Sterling. “It makes me happy that I am helping people who need stuff."
The coat drive is a community project, with donation centres at the Laundry Lounge’s coin-operated laundry, Westridge Coin Laundry, Wihldahl Family Chiropractic, Grace Chiropractic and St. Paul’s Centre.
As well, many local businesses and organizations held internal coat drives, including Oro-Medonte Township, which donated a "truckload of coats," according to Learmonth.
To get the word out, emails were sent to all of the Simcoe County District School Board’s partner organizations, as well as to key community organizations, and local media.
“We are really happy with the response from the community — both in donations and families coming to access the coats,” said Learmonth.
“This is an awesome program,” enthused an anonymous couple who were accessing the coats when a reporter visited.
“With the cost of food, and how hard kids are on coats, not to mention if they get lost or stolen, it is really tough to provide what the kids need each winter. This is a really big help,” they added.
Coats are available free of charge to the public from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Orillia Learning Centre/Simcoe Shores SS, 575 West St. South, unit 15, until Dec. 23.