Clothe the City keeps Winnipeg warm with 2,000 donated winter jackets

Nearly 400 people receive free clothing and food thanks to U of W alumnus

  • For the past six years, Ashley Morden has helped keep Winnipeg’s homeless warm through her annual Clothe the City event. – Cindy Titus

Bundled in her new winter coat, Roslyn Kirwan looks just like any other Winnipegger braving the cold. The difference is she received hers for free through Clothe the City, an annual winter clothing donation drive organized by University of Winnipeg graduate Ashley Morden and student Andrea Dyck.

“This is the second year I’ve received winter clothes through Clothe the City,” said Kirwan. “I’m glad for this warm coat, and that they hold it here at the Lighthouse Mission, where I come often for other community services.”

Kirwan is just one of the nearly 400 people who came to the Dec. 11 event, estimates Sean Goulet, director of the Lighthouse Mission.

“Many of the people who come to the Lighthouse Mission regularly are grateful for this event,” said Goulet. “It can be challenging to get a good winter jacket or pair of boots in different sizes, and Clothe the City has met a lot of needs for not only people who take standard sizes, but also children and people bigger in stature.”

Even though all of the clothes are free, people only take what they need. I encouraged a man with a hole in his boots to take two pairs in case one wears out again, and he said he’d rather leave that extra pair for someone else who might need it.

Ashley Morden, co-organizer, Clothe the City

When Morden first started the event, she managed to collect 800 winter jackets through word-of-mouth advertising. Now in its sixth year, with Dyck as co-organizer and other volunteers to co-ordinate posters and food, Clothe the City received around 2,000 jackets.

The event also received food donations ranging from Christmas oranges to chili to be served the day of the event.

“Even though all of the clothes are free, people only take what they need,” said Morden. “I encouraged a man with a hole in his boots to take two pairs in case one wears out again, and he said he’d rather leave that extra pair for someone else who might need it.”

Any items remaining at the end of the day-long event are left with the Lighthouse Mission for their regular clothing distribution.

This is the second year the non-denominational event was held at the Lighthouse Mission, a century-old organization that provides meals, clothing and other services to people facing homelessness, addiction and hardship.

Clothe the City has helped keep a variety of Winnipeggers warm, notes Morden, as the event has been held in different venues over the years from the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre to the Main Street Project.

Donations are collected across Winnipeg and rural Manitoba in places like Winkler by private individuals and Morden’s family and friends, as well as through thrift stores, work places and church organizations.

Bev Morden, Ashley’s mother, notes that this event is remembered not only by clothing donors who contact the family as early as August to ask when and where they can start dropping off donations for the next year, but also by clothing recipients.

“One lady met Ashley on the street during the summertime and said, ‘You’re the girl who brought me a warm coat,’” Bev said. “The lady was so happy to have that coat.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 13, 2011)

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