Winter clothing drive fills closet in Lethbridge

Alberta Health Services volunteers Brooklyn Slingerland, left, and Marg Keeling hang coats donated to the Chinook Regional Hospital winter clothing drive.

Alberta Health Services volunteers Brooklyn Slingerland, left, and Marg Keeling hang coats donated to the Chinook Regional Hospital winter clothing drive. Photo by Kelly Morris.

Chinook gathers warm gear to support patients being discharged with dignity

Story & photo by Kelly Morris

LETHBRIDGE — Entering the emergency department often happens in a hurry, with patients more worried about their health than the clothing they are wearing. As well, clothing may be cut off to treat a patient or can become soiled. Some patients arrive with only the clothes on their back, ill-prepared for the wintry weather upon their discharge.

Thanks to the first Winter Clothing Drive at Chinook Regional Hospital (CRH), the hospital’s clothing closet is now packed to the brim. The closet, previously maintained by the social work department, is now runs by Volunteer Resources.

“(Social workers) are incredibly busy and maintaining the clothing closet is a big job that requires constant attention, so we offered to take it over to help establish a system for how the clothes are organized and stocked,” says Hailey Stuckart, CRH Volunteer Resources Coordinator.

“We were able to get funding from the CRH Foundation and copied a model from a Calgary hospital — purchasing sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, sports bras, socks, underwear and some generic black canvas shoes. The idea is for everything to be as generic as possible so it’s appropriate for everybody.”

In the past, emails to emergency staff generated additional donations for the closet, as did relationships with local organizations. “We have the great support of the CRH Foundation, and social work already had a relationship with the Salvation Army thrift store,” adds Stuckart.

“We’ve also connected with the Mission Thrift Store, and they’re contributing as well. But the needs are great and there isn’t a lot at either of those places that meets our very specific requirements. So we thought we’d do a clothing drive with staff to try and fill in some of these gaps.”

As a result of the incredible response, the closet is now well-stocked with used clothing and winter gear, and more than 40 quality winter jackets. No donations were refused during the clothing drive; anything that didn’t meet the needs of the closet were redirected to support other organizations in Lethbridge.

“We took a bunch of donations to Streets Alive because they have a centre where low-income families can go to shop for free for clothing, furniture, housewares, and more,” says Stuckart. “Clothes that maybe aren’t appropriate for our purposes, like office wear, we took there because it can better benefit someone who’s looking for exactly that.” Clothing provided by the CRH clothing closet supports patients upon their discharge.

“That’s our focus since we’ve taken it over,” adds Stuckart. “To simplify the process and be able to support as many patients as possible with the basics they need while in hospital, or to get them from the hospital to their next stop.

“We can redirect them after that to any other organizations they may need. If they need to visit the People In Need (PIN) bank at the downtown location of Streets Alive, for example, they have the ability to do that and get additional pieces. Or if they need the pregnancy care centre or food bank, we can direct them that way.”

Members of the Volunteer Resources team say they’re thrilled with the results of their first clothing drive, and happy to fill racks. Maintaining the clothing closet also offers another opportunity for volunteers to get involved at Chinook.

“Our volunteers are amazing and are always looking for additional ways to provide support, so it’s nice when we can develop new programs, particularly when it allows someone to volunteer from home,” says Stuckart.

“Because everyone deserves clean clothing, everything needs to be sorted and possibly laundered, which is something volunteers can do from home and still feel like they’re contributing to our community.”

New and gently-used items will continue to be accepted to fill gaps in the coming months. If you have gently used winter clothing, men’s sweatpants or new-in-package underwear or socks, you can reach out to Volunteer Resources to arrange a donation at [email protected] or by calling 403-388-6311.


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