Rising need for winter coats expected as temperatures and snow falls - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Rising need for winter coats expected as temperatures and snow falls

November 7, 2022


Coats for Kids and Families anticipates a high demand for winter gear for vulnerable families
due to inflation, cost of living, and newcomer settlement.

The Coats for Kids and Families program has only just started its 2022-23 season, and United Way of the Alberta Capital Region has already received almost 5,000 requests for winter coats for vulnerable people this year.

But the actual need in community this winter season is expected to be much greater.

“With everyone still struggling, due to the rising cost of living and the influx of newcomers to our communities, we’re anticipating that we will see a return to pre-pandemic demand — if not higher,” explains Suzi Medhurst, program lead for Coats for Kids and Families.

“Our goal is to collect 9,000 winter outerwear items. Donating new or gently used coats, snowpants, mitts, boots, or hats will greatly help United Way meet urgent and immediate needs of individuals and families across the region.”

Over the last few years, demand for coats fell slightly as agencies didn’t have capacity to safely distribute them due to pandemic precautions. With more agencies now open to in-person services again, demand for coats to coats to distribute is anticipated to rise. Twenty-eight local organizations have already reached out to be distribution centres this season.



Winter gear needed to help newcomers adapt to Alberta

Shari-Lynne Gidyk is the Executive Director at Family Futures Resource Network, a non-profit in Edmonton’s southwest, southeast, and west neighbourhoods that provide parenting supports from birth to adulthood, with wraparound services that include food security supports, mental health services, home visitation, and more.

For the last 22 years, they’ve partnered with United Way as a Coats for Kids and Families distribution site, giving out coats to an average of 150 families per year. This winter, Shari-Lynne and her staff are already hearing from families, especially newcomers to Canada, looking for help to keep warm as temperatures drop.

“Ukrainian families are coming — many of them w­­ere escaping the country so they didn’t come with all the things they need. Now they need coats and warm winter gear. It’s all-encompassing,” Shari-Lynne says.

An important part of providing coats and warm winter items to families is the educational aspect of keeping warm — and learning to enjoy — Edmonton winters. Learning to adapt to Edmonton’s shifting and sometimes unpredictable weather means people must learn how to layer so they can be out in -5°C or -25°C.

As a small non-profit, Family Futures Resource Network appreciates being able to tap into United Way’s in-kind donations so they can focus on delivering frontline services to their participants.

“United Way and Coats for Kids and Families are filling a niche that we can’t fill ourselves — that collaboration between non-profits and United Way is crucial,” says Shari-Lynne. “I thank everybody who takes the time to donate winter gear to Coats for Kids and Families because it is a vital service for Edmonton.”


Nearly 70 drop-off locations across the region
to help families in need

The pandemic also created a barrier to collecting donations. Pre-pandemic, a large percentage of donations came from workplace and community collection drives, but with more people working from home and fewer in-person gatherings, there were fewer collection opportunities.

This year, there are nearly 70 collection sites across Edmonton, St. Albert, Leduc, and Strathcona County where folks can drop off clean or gently used winter wear.

The City of Edmonton will be collecting for Coats for Kids and Families at 23 city recreation centres, attractions, and Eco Stations until December 23.

“I’m so proud of my team, all across the capital city, for creating drop-off locations for both Edmonton employees and the public to donate warm coats for adults and children in need,” says Judith Rohovie, the Director of Recreation and Culture Community Hubs with the City of Edmonton.

“As civil servants, our commitment is to build a city where we all can create, thrive, and belong, and our charitable contributions to United Way are a part of this commitment. United Way continues to be City employees’ corporate charity of choice, providing our 13,000+ employees opportunities to share with vulnerable Edmontonians each year.”

More ways to support Coats for Kids and Families

And while United Way is always looking for more businesses to support Coats for Kids and Families through workplace product drives and drop-off locations, support through monetary donations, sponsorship, and volunteering is also critical to meet the increased need in community.

Volunteers sort through coats, making sure that the items are in good condition and functional, diverting any that are dirty to be sent to our sponsor Page the Cleaner. Damaged winterwear donations are recycled, as United Way doesn’t have the means to repair rips, missing buttons, or broken zippers.

Sponsorship and monetary donations from community members mean United Way can buy new items in bulk to cover any shortfalls in donations, often men’s coats and mittens.

“Because we serve such a diverse population from infants to adults, it can be challenging to make sure that the donations we receive are equitable and meet the needs in community. Monetary donations help us bridge that gap in a responsive and dignified way,” Suzi Medhurst says.


Find a Coats for Kids and Families drop-off location or donate online to give the gift of warmth this winter season.