The Orillia Learning Centre’s winter coat drive has progressed since its inception eight years ago at the hands of staffers, Beverly Burton and Lloyd Stringer. The drive is the only one of its kind that not only provides for local students and residents, but neighbouring towns, as well.

Winter coats are dropped off up to Nov. 30 at various locations, then distributed to Learning Centre students, Simcoe Alternative SS students, and Orillia residents Dec. 1 – 22, 9 am to 3 pm at Orillia Learning Centre. The students help sort donated coats into bags that are taken by drivers from Champlain Seniors Club to Fabricare who donate supplies for their cleaning by the students.

This is the first year Champlain Seniors Club are partnering with them, but Fabricare have been on board since they start of the drive. “They’re great, they donate all the water and the soap and the electricity and they have to dry all of these coats too – it’s a lot,” says Stringer.

As for the students, they not only get first dibs on the coats coming in, but also earn academic credits for their help with processing the garments. “For our students, for example, they have to earn 40 community involvement hours to get their high school diplomas, so a lot of our students get a lot of their hours, if not all of their hours helping (with the) coat drive,” says Stringer.

It was Burton who sparked the start of what has become the only coat drive of its kind in the county, after wanting to get involved with the Salvation Army’s drive. “I knew of a coats for kids campaign that used to run with the Salvation Army and a laundromat and we wanted to assist them, but they weren’t running it anymore and so we just got it going,” says Burton.

They receive up to 1,200 coats some years, leaving enough to meet the needs of local students and residents and distribute to the service groups like the SA and men’s and women’s shelters. After eight years, the drive has become part of the cultural fabric in Orillia, attracting donations from various sources, even other businesses running their own drives.

“It’s become expected, before we have the news release go out, people are already asking us if we’re doing a coat drive to bring their coats in. It’s expected now. They save us a coat throughout the year,” says Burton.

For information, visit: www.scdsb.on.ca/Schools

(Pictured above: Student volunteer sorting through donated items, at the Orillia Learning Centre, in preparation for the 2017 coat drive)