INNISFAIL – The community’s vulnerable citizens are being offered a helping hand against the bitter cold with heartwarming donations of homemade winterwear from generous and thoughtful citizens who have volunteered their creative skills.
The community-driven idea, which is called the Pass the Toque initiative, came from the Community Partners in Action team, which includes representatives from Alberta Health Services, Wolf Creek Primary Care Network, the Town of Innisfail and Innisfail FCSS.
Wendy Evans, a geriatric nurse with the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network and president of the Community Partners in Action Society, said the team wanted to look at how members could support vulnerable individuals in the community and give back in a meaningful way.
“The Pass the Toque initiative was an idea to support individuals but also for volunteers to have an opportunity to support vulnerable people in the community to keep warm this winter,” said Evans. “The donations to this have been amazing with over 150 items going to a variety of local locations. It just shows us how people in the community rally around those who need support.”
Ellen Helgason, a recreation therapist with Alberta Health Services and member of the Community Partners in Action team, said the initiative is intended to run all winter.
She said the team saw a need in the community and the Pass the Toque initiative was created to fill it.
“We saw that there was a lot of those type of (vulnerable) individuals in the community who have needed a little help this winter to keep warm, especially after the weather turned really cold it was absolutely miserable and (some) people are not dressed properly,” said Helgason, adding the donations have included yarn, as well as knitted and crocheted toques, scarves and even socks.
"There are so many talented generous people out there. We always see people who want to donate but maybe not as keen donating money but when they can donate some of their talents for these types of causes, they are a lot more willing to do that versus money they don’t know where it’s going."
Helgason said donations are still being accepted at town hall and the Innisfail Medical Clinic and they are passed on to different locations in the community that support the vulnerable population.
She said the Town of Innisfail, Innisfail and District Food Bank and Innisfail Health Centre are also handing the items out.
“The community has been fantastic with our group when we were trying to make it a dementia friendly community, and it’s really important for us to give back to the community as well. It is not always about taking. It’s about giving, and it doesn’t have to be just at Christmas,” said Helgason.
Karen Bradbury, the town's community and social development coordinator, said dropped off donations are turned over to local organizations who need them to pass on to needy citizens.
Bradbury said the town makes every effort to get the items to the town’s vulnerable, wherever they may be, noting even the community’s peace officers also pass on the toques and other homemade winterwear.
“They are pretty well distributed in the community. The Salvation Army has them as well. We are trying to get them out there,” said Bradbury.
“There may be a number of organizations that may encounter individuals who are struggling, so we have tried to connect with those organizations to ensure they have a stack of those toques for sure.”