We were thrilled to support the following project with our Neighbourhood Small Grants.
Author: Nicole Lefebvre
The Winter Warm-Up Project was an enormous success, and went above and beyond our
expectations and hopes! The project was so well-received by our neighbours in need, as well as the
community establishments we were partnering with to deliver the winter gear. Due to some
unexpected circumstances, the project had to evolve in a way that engaged two additional community
volunteers, as well as multiple local Campbell River shops. In the end this adaptation to the plan was
incredibly positive as it expanded our community involvement, and the two volunteers expressed how
happy it made them to be part of the project.
The original goal of the Winter Warm-Up Project was to purchase 100 hats, 100 sets of gloves,
and 24 fleece blankets through a Canadian wholesale business to distribute to our homeless
neighbours in need during the winter season. This winter was going to be particularly difficult for this
demographic as COVID restrictions had significantly reduced access to warm, indoor spaces for folks to
spend time in, resulting in our homeless neighbours spending a much greater amount of time
outdoors this winter than usual. Providing warm winter gear for our neighbours during this
challenging time was an extremely important service.
When the project was originally planned, brand new items were priced (including taxes and
shipping costs) and this particular wholesaler was the best bang for our buck. By the time the project
had received it's approval and the grant funds were obtained, the wholesaler in question had sold out
of the items the Winter Warm-Up Project had hoped to purchase. This threw a wrench in our plans, as
all of the other comparable wholesalers were nearly double the cost for the same types of items. I had
registered my e-mail address on a wait-list with the wholesaler so that I would be notified when the
items came back into stock, but after a month of waiting and with weather beginning to get colder, I
knew we would have to modify the plans.
I contacted the NSG committee to let them know about the situation and to ask if the winter
gear could be purchased from local thrift stores instead. After approval was granted for this change, I
recruited two neighbours to assist me in hunting for these items at local shops. I took the project
funds out of my account and divided them three ways between us. Throughout the next 6 weeks, we
would go searching for deals in our free time, and drop off deliveries weekly to the two locations that
we had partnered with until finally all of the funds had been used. The two locations we delivered to
were the Sobering and Assessment Centre (a 12-bed emergency shelter facility) and the Overdose
Prevention Site (a safe consumption site for people who use drugs, the majority of which are
experiencing homelessness). These two sites are centrally-located hubs that our homeless neighbours
frequent for other services and resources, so they were the perfect location for the winter gear to be
distributed out of.
A very memorable moment for me would be the first snow fall of the year. I had purchased a
bunch of winter gear throughout the week to drop off, and that day when I woke up and saw the snow
outside I knew that I had to make it downtown that morning since people would be asking for it. I
trekked down to the Overdose Prevention Site with two huge bags full of hats, gloves, and socks. The
staff and clients at the site were overjoyed, and many people had wet socks in their boots that they
were excited to take off and replace with the new warm socks they had just been given.
I learned a lot from my experience with The Winter Warm-Up Project! I am so grateful that the
original plans did not work out, as the project was able to evolve and adapt in a way that was actually
much more beneficial to the community and our neighbours. Some key learning points:
– With the original plan, I would have received the full shipment of gear at once, and probably
just split the goods into two portions and dropped off half at the OPS and half at the SAC for
their staff to hand out. The gear would have been distributed pretty quickly right at the
beginning of winter, and then there would have been a huge lack of gear throughout February
and March. With the new plan, we had to shop around and look for deals, therefore collecting
the gear over several weeks and distributing it a bit at a time. I think this was way more
beneficial for the community as it resulted in a regular supply of winter gear being available at
these sites throughout the majority of the winter.
– Another huge advantage we had is that with this new plan, we were able to get feedback from
the people who we were helping! When I originally planned the project, I was just thinking
about hats and mitts as far as wearable warm gear. After dropping off hats and mitts on the
first delivery, I was met with the request for socks and it was put on my radar that socks were
in huge demand as so many people were wearing wet boots due to walking in rain and/or
snow all day. Having wet feet for prolonged periods of time was leading to huge safety
concerns like wounds and skin infections on people's feet. After receiving this feedback, a huge
portion of the project funding went into purchasing thick, warm socks for our neighbours.
– Being able to recruit two volunteers to share the workload of searching around town for
affordable winter gear was a huge positive aspect of the new plan. The two volunteers were
really excited to be part of the project, and we found some amazing deals! One of the
volunteers stumbled across a sale where sets of gloves were on for 50 cents a pair, and she was
able to score 150 pairs that day, essentially emptying the shelves of that store! We ended up
obtaining way more winter gear than we originally thought we would, as it was much more
cost effective to source the gear from thrift stores, and also be on the hunt for sales at the
larger stores in town.
I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the Campbell River Community Foundation and the
Neighbourhood Small Grants Committee for funding this project. The distribution of these hats,
gloves, mittens, and socks had a profound impact on our community and helped out so many of our
neighbours during a very challenging winter. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this
experience, and I hope we can continue funding initiatives like this for future winters to come.