The heart-melting moment when a child receives a much-needed winter coat also keeps Leila Durzi warm each winter.
As a school counsellor, she’s used the Victoria Coats for Kids program much of her 15 years at George Jay Elementary.
The organization, now more than two decades old, provides warm winter coats to kids and families in need across Greater Victoria.
“Every kid deserves a coat. It’s never a child’s fault they don’t have a coat,” said Durzi, now a board member of the Victoria Coats for Kids Association.
As someone who saw the impact of wrapping a child in a warm coat first-hand, she and others stepped up to keep the critical program running when the organizer retired about eight years ago.
“It’s good to understand that when kids get a warm coat they get excited. When you don’t have a coat it really impacts your life as a kid,” she said.
The Victoria Coats For Kids non-profit sees about 500 to 600 winter coats each year, alongside cash donations.
The organization traditionally held an annual drive, one day to bring donations and fill a bus. When in-person events were sidelined by COVID-19 pandemic health protocols, the Coats for Kids team shifted to a drop-off partnership with Hillside Shopping Centre. The accessibility can’t even compare, Durzi said.
New or slightly used winter coats (in good working condition and clean) can be dropped in a bin near the guest services kiosk – where a centre staff member can also accept cash donations. The bin is there now through March in a bid to fill the stores for next winter. Coat orders have already gone out for this winter, though a handful will come in through the coolest weather.
Any agency or family in need can reach out, the group has arrangements in place with the Single Parent Resource Centre, Victoria Native Friendship Centre, community groups and schools across the south Island. Email email@example.com for details.
Coats can be dropped off at Hillside Shopping Centre or 1118 Princess Ave. (George Jay Elementary) during regular business hours.
Follow the association online at facebook.com/victoriacoatsforkids.
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