With the weather turning cold, Lacombians are digging winter wear out of the back of closets and Lacombe Family and Community Support Services is starting up its New Coats for Kids program again.
Jan Pocock, volunteer and community services coordinator for FCSS, said the purpose is to provide children in Lacombe and area with high quality winter wear, whether their families can afford it or not.
“Every child in our community deserves to have good quality winter wear so they can enjoy the fall and winter season,” said Pocock. She went on to say that children who have good winter wear are more active during the winter, which leads to them being healthier and more engaged as well.
Not only that, but all children should be able to experience winter as the magical time it can be, said Pocock. For many Canadians, some of their fondest memories are of winter activities like sledding or building snowmen and snow forts. Pocock said that she wants all children to be able to continue making those fond memories.
Coats for Kids has been running in Lacombe for over 10 years. About five years ago, the program switched from accepting donations of winter wear to ordering brand new toques, gloves, mitts, ski pants, boots and other cold weather gear for those who access the program.
There are a number of reasons why this change was made including storage, quality control and the lifespan of items. Ordering brand new winter wear for children also avoids kids standing out on the playground by not being able to afford their own winter gear.
Those wishing to take advantage of the program must fill out an application form. Applicants are then screened based on their income. If they are deemed eligible, they are awarded a certain amount of money to spend in the program based on how much they make, how many kids are in the family and the age of those children.
Last year, almost $4,000 of winter wear was given out as part of the program. Forty-one children from 18 families within Lacombe and district received new gear.
The program is funded the same way all FCSS programs are, through donations and government funding, said Pocock. She said they are constantly looking for donations to fund initiatives like New Coats for Kids and recently received a $1,000 donation from the Lacombe ATB to go towards the program. Pocock said every year the support from the community is overwhelming.
New Coats for Kids and the winter season also mark the beginning of the time of year people rely more on FCSS programs, said Pocock. She added it also means this is the season where FCSS calls on the community for the most support.
FCSS runs the New Coats for Kids program every year, but families can only apply every other year. Not having the same families apply in consecutive years allows FCSS to be able to serve more families.
This year, FCSS will be purchasing winter wear through Sears, said Pocock. She added that there is a great line of winter wear available and families will be able to choose items from top brands such as Sorel, Kamik, North Peak and Alpine.