Coats for Communities helping people stay warm in winter

Bags of coats waiting to keep their new owners warm this winter.

ST. STEPHEN – Steve Smith appreciates the support the Coats for Communities has received.

Beginning as Coats for Kids, the program has evolved into helping the whole community. Smith, who signed on to run the program for 10 years, is into his fourth year with Coats for Communities. Prior to his involvement, New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) delivered it, with some of the coats going to international students who needed winter clothing.

The name changed in 2021 because not just children need winter coats.

Families and adults need warm clothing as well explained Smith.

He partners with a number of local organizations including the Charlotte County Volunteer Centre in St. Stephen, which sets up racks of clothes in the basement that families can walk through and pick out what they need. They also distribute items to the middle school.

Not only coats can be donated either. Hats, mitts, gloves and scarves are accepted, even boots as long as they’re in good condition. Everything must be new or lightly used. The Algonquin Hotel takes all the used items and launders them before being distributed. The hotel donates the laundry service.

Over the four years, Smith estimates they’ve provided winter coats to close to 1,000 people.

Smith is active in other community service activities and this was one that he felt could make a significant difference to people. He notes that through a business management course he took at NBCC, he has been able to make the operation run more efficiently so the amount of time he and other volunteers have to spend is minimized but still makes the program effective.

“There’s no need for anybody in Canada to go without warm clothing,” Smith said.

In Saint Andrews, donations can be dropped off at NBCC. Uncle Mayn’s accepts donations in St. George. In St. Stephen, items can be dropped off at St. Croix Auto where Smith works, as well as Giant Tiger.

Smith made special note of Giant Tiger customers who, this year, have been buying new coats in the store and dropping them in the donation box. He estimates 70 per cent of donations this season have come from Giant Tiger customers.

All sizes of coats, hats and mitts are needed. Items are distributed throughout Charlotte County.

“The community is the biggest part of it,” said Smith. “They’re the ones who bring in the coats.”