After a decade long absence the SaskEnergy Share the Warmth program returned to Swift Current in order to support the Swift Current and District United Way's effort to collect warm winter clothing for city residents.
A large amount of donations were collected during an intensive weekend long campaign, where bags and bags of winter clothing was generously provided by city residents.
The re-emergence of the Share the Warmth campaign was an ideal partnership between the United Way and SaskEnergy to address an identified need in the community.
"The United Way had seen a need in our community for warm clothing, and so we actually approached them for a coats for kids program," explained Darla Lindbjerg, United Way Executive Director. However, both groups agreed the Share the Warmth format could be utilized to fill the need more effectively.
"It's a solution to help those that need them," Lindbjerg said. "We also have a large immigration base within Swift Current. These individuals, sometimes they're aware of the weather conditions, sometimes they're not. So it's a way to help families, kids within the community, who might need those."
There were numerous opportunities to support the initiative, including a three-day effort at the Swift Current Mall, plus chances during the Go Green Friday BBQ hosted by Stark & Marsh at Market Square, plus the Swift Current Bronco game versus Moose Jaw on Friday.
Leslie Gosselin, Sask Energy Manager for Advertising and Community Relations, commented that the Share the Warmth program has an important impact.
"You know, as a mother I know that sometimes if there’s a crisis in the family, or if somebody is suddenly unemployed, to be able to go out and buy new clothing for those growing children is vey difficult, especially when you’ve got several children in the family. So this is a way, I hope, for some of those families to have easy access to the clothing that they need. There’s nothing worse than seeing little kids going to school in the winter time and not having hats or mitts or proper clothing. So hopefully this will make it easier for some of those families right here in this community."
She noted that the Share the Warmth operated as a province wide initiative for an 11 year period before taking a hiatus in 2004. SaskEnergy reintroduced the program in Swift Current in a partnership with the United Way to help with their collection of warm clothing for the winter.
"The program got so huge. In the last year, I think we collected about 170 000 pieces of warm clothing in one year around the province. Which is a really big pile to figure out what to do with, and we got a bit tired I would say, so we just took a little bit of a break, and now we’re back at it. I think we’ll probably look for communities where we can do this where we know the community is going to rally behind us and help with the volunteering. I have to say, Swift Current has just been amazing coming together from all different parts of the city," Gosselin said. "It’s been remarkable how it’s come together so nicely."
Kaitlyn Torrie, Great Plains College Student Association President, was part of a group of college students who volunteered for the program, while a collection bin at the Swift Current campus was filled with donated items.
"It's a good way for our students to be involved in our community," Torrie commented. "It doesn't cost anything so it's just a matter of donating our extra clothing for somebody in need."
The United Way will now be striving to get these items of warm winter clothing into the hands of people that need it through a series of partner agencies in the City. The remaining clothing will be distributed by the Salvation Army.
"Those clothes will be available, not for sale, that are needed by individuals that can come and get them for free," Lindbjerg said.
She encouraged people who missed the Share the Warmth donation period to hold onto clothing for a campaign next fall, or they can donate items to the Salvation Army or MCC.