Volunteers show toques, mittens and scarves that have been hand-knitted during a previous year’s Comfort Coats effort. (File photo)

Volunteers show toques, mittens and scarves that have been hand-knitted during a previous year’s Comfort Coats effort. (File photo)

South Surrey ‘Comfort Coat’ project a success, despite pandemic hurdles

Helpers of St. Anne volunteers ensure tradition continues to warm homeless

The COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges for Semiahmoo Peninsula volunteers who’ve gathered every fall for nearly two decades to craft warmth for the homeless.

In years past, the dozens-strong Helpers of St. Anne team would meet regularly en masse, starting in September, in the gym of Star of the Sea Catholic school in South Surrey to cut, sew and stuff full-length, fleece-lined, quilted and hooded waterproof coats that ultimately protect those most in need from the biting elements of the winter season.

READ MORE: ‘So much need’ for South Surrey-based coat project to continue, grow

But the pandemic, as it has with so many things, threw the tradition a serious curveball.

“We had so many challenges to our project this year,” group founder Carolyn Wharton said this month. “I’ve never faced so many challenges.”

After stepping up in March – following declaration of the pandemic – to fashion and deliver more than 2,500 masks to sites including care homes, members of the Catholic outreach ministry turned their focus to the Comfort Coats initiative.

Faced with no way to fundraise, facility closures, gathering limits and sanitizing requirements, “we thought, ‘what in heaven’s name are we going to do about the coat project?’” Wharton said.

There were doubts as to whether enough of the material could be obtained months ahead of schedule to enable an early start that could help balance out the restrictions. As well, if it did arrive early, “where on Earth were we going to cut all this fabric?” Wharton said.

Determined, the volunteers powered through – fabric was secured, a group member had space to enable some distanced cutting and as much as was possible was done from home. Eventually, tables for sewing were set up in the Star of the Sea Hall, but still, only half the usual number of sewers could be there, Wharton said.

Despite the obstacles, some two dozen Comfort Coats – which double as sleeping bags – their pockets stuffed with toiletries, knitted items and gifts, will be ready for pickup in early December. This year, they will be distributed through Collingwood Neighbourhood House, Missionary Sisters of Charity and the Catholic Street Missionaries.

“We were absolutely determined to find a way around everything that COVID threw to us as an obstacle,” Wharton said, commending, in particular, project co-ordinators Margaret Gregson, Ana Castillion and Arnalda Benetti.

“The community needs to know how hard we worked this year,” she added. “The people that have come together to pull this off, they’re just so dedicated. The work was unreal and the organization had to be just right.

“It’s over with now, but boy, I tell you, I didn’t think it would be possible.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusHomelessSurreyvolunteersWhite Rock

 

Volunteers work on Comfort Coats during a previous year’s effort. (File photo)

Volunteers work on Comfort Coats during a previous year’s effort. (File photo)

Just Posted

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

Fleetwood Park Secondary School’s 2021 commencement ceremonies were held over the course of two days, June 10 and 11. Grads went through a small, distanced ceremony in groups of four, with up to four members of the grad’s household. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s 2021 grads find creative ways to celebrate in another year of COVID-19

This year’s Grade 12 students were unable to have any large-scale events

Friends of Bear Creek Park held a ‘yellow-ribbon event’ on Saturday (June 12, 2021), with protesters at 84th Avenue and King George Boulevard and 84th Avenue and 140th Street. People were asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard “to celebrate and to show support for our trees in Bear Creek Park.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Protesters hold ‘yellow-ribbon’ event at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

People asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard to ‘show support for our trees’

All nine White Rock Renegades softball teams are set to take part in the Canadian Pride and Power Tournament, scheduled for July 1-4. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock Renegades set to host multi-team Pride and Power softball tournament

‘There’s going to be a lot of excitement in the park,’ said Greg Timm

The Lower Mainland Green Team and students from Earl Marriott Secondary remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Green Team returns to White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park to monitor previous work

Environmental volunteers, South Surrey students remove invasive species

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read