After being on pause for about the past four years, the program Share the Warmth Altona is up and running once again to ensure all area residents are adequately dressed for winter.
Organizer Julia Bergman says the donation-based, nonprofit, volunteer-run project was launched nearly sixteen years ago by local resident Lorraine Heinrichs.
"It was noted by her, and a couple of teachers and other parents, that, oh wow, we have kids going to school that need warmer clothes, so they can enjoy the outdoor time. She just took it upon herself, it was very grassroots, started tapping shoulders and putting the word out, and it grew beautifully over almost two decades. She had a place in the Altona Mall, and she had collected piles of donations, and was able to ensure everybody in our community had warm clothes for the winter months."
Bergman's involvement with the program began when she was approached by The Community Exchange.
"Altona has such a beautiful legacy of welcoming newcomers into our community. For a lot of people here in town, this is their first time experiencing winter climate, so the need for winter gear to ensure everybody stays warm was great. The Community Exchange approached me to see if I'd be willing to get it up and running. It felt like an easy 'Yes', because it's a need that everybody deserves to have filled."
With her family being new to Altona, Bergman says she's passionate about wanting to have people's basic needs met.
"It's so vital. I think it can be overlooked that a wealthy community like Altona would have a great need for things so basic. But the need is really great. It's been incredibly eye-opening being someone that's getting to know this community."
Bergman says they do a lot of work with local schools, as well as through communication with teachers.
"It's such a delicate conversation, because it's tricky to get the message out in a way that makes people feel like they can approach us. It's very vulnerable for someone to say out loud they have a need, that they can't provide for themselves for their family."
The program provides an outlet for people to pass along extra winter gear to someone else who needs it, points out Bergman.
"Our biggest needs, right now, are for adult and children's winter boots and mittens. We also accept donations for winter coats and ski pants, suits, neck warmers. We love when items are donated that are gently used and already laundered. We have had lots of donations, too, with tags still on items that didn't fit, or that people just didn't get a chance to use themselves."
The Community Exchange, at 116 Main Street in Altona, is providing a space in the building for the program to collect donations. Drop-offs can be made on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am to 1pm.
Donations can also be made out to The Community Exchange or via an e-transfer to Sharing the Warmth using the address, email@example.com.
Questions can be directed to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org