We assume it’s cold outside when we see someone wearing a heavy coat, however, no child or less fortunate person deserves to be cold because of the lack of winter clothing while living in the Lakeland Region.
I believe it’s our responsibility as humans to help less fortunate people, and my reasonability as a journalist to be the voice of the voiceless.
During my career, I have traveled throughout Canada and spent time North of 60. This issue is present in all communities I have worked in as school children and the homeless try to fight the bite of winter while wearing improper clothing.
I took time to chat with a homeless man sitting on the street across from me on Franklin Avenue in Yellowknife while I was working there. Everyone around us was heading to work dressed in their fancy winter coats but the man next to me doesn’t have one, he is alone and his teeth chatter as he shivers to fight the north wind buttoning his torn summer jacket.
Next door to him, there is a warm fast-food restaurant where people are drinking hot coffee as they laugh and converse. Their smiles warm the room as they eat breakfast, many wondering about what they will watch on TV tonight or what to cook for supper once the workday ends.
The man next door wonders to himself if he will freeze to death on the street this winter without proper winter clothing as he stares at the tourists walking by in their Canada Goose down-filled jackets. I know this because I went and spoke to him. I immediately notice his blue chapped hands while taking off the warm mittens my Mother sent to me from Newfoundland. I immediately hand them to him. The tears from his eyes freeze on his face as he tells me he doesn’t know where to turn for help as the temperature plummets in the Northwest Territories.
It was minus 17 that day and the man says but these mittens and your kindness warm my soul. I fight my own tears as I lay down on a cold sidewalk next to my new friend. I notice tossed cigarette butts nearby on the street that haven’t been smoked down to anywhere near the filter, abandoned by warm hands because it’s just too cold outside.
I believed that my new friend deserved the dignity and respect of having a new coat and winter clothing to keep him warm in the winter months. I was successful in gaining business sponsorship during this time to clothe the less fortunate and kindness poured in from the community to help people stay warm. I received many hugs that winter from less fortunate people who received winter clothing, not only did the community warm their hands that winter but we also warmed their hearts with community kindness.
A couple of days ago while driving in the Lakeland I saw a school student shivering while waiting for the bus. He was wearing very little winter clothing while his friends around him were all bundled up. I’m not sure if he chose to dress that way on a frigid day or if he had no other choice.
This prompted me to contact the Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) Board to inquire if they are seeing children coming to school with the lack of winter clothing and if so is anything being done about it.
Nicole Garner from NLPS Communications told me, “No clothing drives have been held this year, but we do have students showing up at the bus stop and at school without weather-appropriate clothing.”
“It is not only a matter of staying warm on their way to and from school but of being able to participate in recess as our schools try to have outdoor recesses as much as possible so students get fresh air and sunshine, and a break from being in the classroom. So warm coats, snow pants, warm boots, gloves/mittens, toques and scarves,” Garner said. “Some schools do accept donations that they pass on to families who need them, or use for students whose outdoor gear gets wet or damaged or lost at school, or forget items at home.”
If people have new or gently used items they would like to donate, they can call their school to find out if they are accepting donations, Garner added.
Let’s keep the children warm in the Lakeland, call your child’s school to see how you can help.