For the last decade, Warm and Cozy Children’s Charity has been providing warm, winter clothing to children in need in the Georgian Bay area.
According to Phyllis Stanley, co-founder of the charity, it all began 11 years ago when her husband accompanied one of their grandchildren on a field trip to Sainte Marie among the Hurons.
Stanley remembers it was a “snowy and bitterly, bitterly cold” day.
That afternoon, she received a phone call from her husband, who told her there was a young girl there without proper winter clothing.
“She was wearing shoes at least two sizes too small and she was crying,” Stanley recalls. “She wasn’t properly dressed, she didn’t have a winter coat or a hat or gloves or anything.”
Her husband went to a nearby Walmart to purchase bandages for the girl’s feet, a winter coat and some warm clothing.
Meanwhile, Stanley went to the school to ask if there were other children in need of winter clothing. The school’s secretary told her the problem was widespread in the region.
“I didn’t know there was poverty like that here in Canada,” Stanley said.
Stanley says this incident and several others just like it are what drove her to start the charity.
Over the years the charity has grown and now provides aid to children in nine schools in the Georgian Bay area.
Last year, Warm and Cozy provided clothing to more than 300 children in need.
Now, Stanley has developed a system and the entire operation is done discretely.
Teachers at the local schools will identify children in need and will contact Warm and Cozy with their shoe size and clothing sizes.
“They have the best insight into the children’s needs, they know them and they know their circumstances,” Stanley said.
Volunteers with the charity will then buy hats, snowsuits, gloves, snow boots, underwear and a small personal gift according to the information provided by the teachers.
The clothing is put into a large red sack with a Santa Claus tag and is delivered to the school where it is given to the child discretely.
Stanley says it is important that the items all be purchased new for the children.
“It would be very easy for me to go to the Sally Ann and buy some used stuff, but you see, these children have never had anything new in their life and when they have nice new, crisp, good quality stuff they are the same as the other children,” she said. “And they lift their head up and have this new-found confidence.”
And for Stanley that’s what it’s all about.
She says beyond just providing clothing, Warm and Cozy is about breaking the cycle of hopelessness.
“Our goal is to help these young people, to break free of this cycle. And when you do that, when you give somebody hope anything is possible,” she said. “And that’s honestly what it’s about, so yes we use the clothing, but the main thing is to give them hope. You give them hope and it opens so many doors.”
The work is done using donations from individuals, from various organizations in the community and through funding.
However, Stanley says this year, the charity didn’t receive all of the funding they needed to fulfil the requests. And, with winter fast approaching, Stanley says the next few months are when the need is the greatest.
“This year there is quite a bit of funding we didn’t get, so it’s going to be very difficult,” she said. “You can only do with what you have.”
According to Stanley, monetary donations are the most effective. That way volunteers can ensure every article of clothing is used.
“Each year it’s different, you just don’t know, some years it’s the grade sevens and eights; other years it’s the little kids,” she said. “It’s about meeting the need in the best way you can.”
Those interested in donating to Warm and Cozy Children’s Charity can do so online.
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