The launch of the 2020 coat drive. From left to right: Melody Macsemchuk (Grace Place), Emily Shandruk (Precious Bundles), Michelle Jordan (Shelter House), Jon Wynn (Gear Up), Tom Pazianos, Bob Stewart (The Keg Steakhouse + Bar)

Winter Coat Drive Sets Record for Donations

By Marcia Arpin

Gear Up for Outdoors, in partnership with The Keg Steakhouse + Bar, continued their tradition this year of collecting seasonal clothing for those in need. When meeting with his staff, Gear Up owner Jon Wynn knew there would be no barrier that would keep the annual event from continuing. With research and a collective passion from many community partners, The 14th Annual Spread the Warmth (contactless) Winter Coat Drive was launched in October 2020. With health and safety protocols for COVID-19 in place, the team confidently gathered numerous articles of seasonal clothing, like coats, for those in Thunder Bay in need of extra warmth during the winter months.

“Whether it was families [being] at home to clean and purge more extra clothes than usual, or the giant heart of Thunder Bay beating more than ever, this year had more items by a huge amount compared to past years,” Wynn says. The community generously donated 1,320 winter jackets for the season. Grace Place, Precious Bundles, and Shelter House were the recipients of the jackets.

Wynn also acknowledges the many community groups and businesses that rallied their employees to collect coats. He is also grateful to the hockey teams and schools who also participated by gathering large donations. The clothing drive ended on December 20, 2020.

A donation of 50 jackets collected by the Thunder Bay Kings Hockey program

After this year’s success, planning for a 15th clothing drive has begun. The team is likely to continue to maintain the same protocols—not only for health and safety benefits, but because the organizers realized the new system to gather jackets made for more efficient collection and distribution of the winter gear. In the future, all coats must be washed and clean, each individual jacket must be delivered in a clear plastic bag, the size of the garment must be labelled on each bag, and drop off will likely continue to be outdoors.

“So many in our community are blessed by the donations of winter coats,” Wynn says. “There is never trouble finding a warm fit for those in need. The generosity of our community and outlying areas has always left a lasting impression on all those who benefit from your generous donations.”