Decades of Keeping Vulnerable Children and Families Warm

Salvation Army worker hands a winter coat to client

The Salvation Army in Cobourg and Port Hope, Ont., are several Salvation Army centres gearing up for the cold weather and ensuring that at-risk people stay warm when temperatures drop.

In its 26th year, The Salvation Army’s Coats for Kids program in Northumberland County has been an enormous success, handing out more than 15,000 winter coats since its inception. The collection of coats is an annual drive supported by local businesses, volunteers and sponsors. Mittens, hats, scarves and boots are also collected for distribution.

“We don’t ask any questions. If you need a coat, you get one”

“The program began when a local businessman witnessed school children huddled in a corner without winter wear,” says Lisa Graham, community and family services manager in Port Hope. “He saw a need and did something about it.”

Rod Baker, Bakers Cleaners

Rod Baker, Bakers Cleaners

Rod Baker, of Bakers Cleaners, was disturbed that the children were without coats. He told a friend about the incident and was asked, ‘what are you going to do about it’? Hence the program, Coats for Kids was born.

“I clean the gently-used coats, and The Salvation Army distributes them,” says the now 81-year- old. “I’m happy to help others and my community in this way. ”

In the first year of the program, 75 coats were distributed. Last year more than 600 coats were given out.

“I came to The Salvation Army to get a coat for my grandson and ended up getting one for me,” says Shannon. “I can’t put into words how much that meant.”

“No one should go through winter without a coat”

This year, because of COVID-19, Graham expects the numbers to rise.

“Some of our smaller shops have closed or reduced their hours,” says Graham. “People who once donated may now be asking for help. We don’t ask any questions. If you need a coat, you get one. No one should go through winter without a coat.”

“I honestly don’t know what my children would have done without the help of this program,” says Amanda.

“Something as simple as a coat can release a struggling family from a lot of worry and making tough decisions,” says Graham. “We can’t thank our community enough for helping us to keep our families warm.”

By Linda Leigh