The Christmas season is over, but the giving spirit is still alive and well in Leamington.
The family of Mariete Demelo-Grilo, her husband Paulo Grilo and their three children have initiated a community-wide winter clothing collection for the area’s underprivileged families struggling to cope with chilly temperatures. The five local residents are encouraging members of the public to drop off gently-used and unwanted clothes into bins at locations that include Monte Motors at the corner of Seacliff Drive and Erie Street South as well as St. Louis Catholic Elementary School at 176 Talbot St. East near the intersection at Lutsch Street.
For the drive — known as H.U.G.S. And Hats — the family is looking for winter hats and toques, mittens, gloves, sweaters, sweatshirts, hoodies, snow pants and boots. The organizers are not seeking scarves because of the associated choking hazards and although they aren’t requesting winter coats because of the Coats For Kids program that already exists in Leamington, they have already received a few.
The collection officially kicked off late last week at St. Louis Catholic Elementary School, where banners promoting the drive were revealed to students during a morning assembly. Leading the campaign are Mariete and Paulo’s children 10-year-old Grade 5 student Zander, eight-year-old Grade 3 student Lucas — both at St. Louis School — and 13-year-old Grade 9 Cardinal Carter student Tatiana.
The banners being used to promote the drive were printed and laminated courtesy of Leamingotn’s Speedprint Ltd. production manager Scott Taylor. The staff at Shoppers Drug Mart in Leamington have also vowed to assist with the charitable effort and the Leamington Firefighters Association has chipped in with a donation of 20 toques. Friends and family of the Grilo family have also been dropping off winter wear donations to their home to assist in getting the campaign started. The organizers have made store-to-store visits in search of contributions and were given the drop-off bins courtesy of Reis Appliances.
“There have been a lot of places willing to help in any which way, which is great,” said Mariete. “This is exactly what we were hoping to see. We want this to be a campaign where the whole community gets involved. So far, it’s been an awesome start.”
Additional support has also come from Danny Farias at My Insurance Broker Corp., Donnie Pacheco from Jose’s Bar and Grill with a hot lunch award for the class that brings in the most donations, Rob Butler of Kingsville Freshco and Real Canadian Superstore manager James Lea. Speedprint also contributed to the creation of “Hugs and Hats” t-shirts, some of which were given away during the banner presentation at St. Louis School.
Initially, the family wanted to start the winter clothing drive during the Christmas holidays, but later decided an early January start would be more ideal because of other commitments the public generally has near Christmas and New Year’s. The bins are expected to be available for donations until the end of February.
The idea for the Grilo family to make local winter clothing donations began about three years ago when they began emptying drawers to see which items still fit and which ones did not. After they began accumulating, obsolete articles of clothing were placed in bags and sent to the school for children from underprivileged families.
Brothers Zander and Lucas have been performing morning skits over the P.A. system at St. Louis to publicize the campaign and along with their sister Tatiana, created 500 flyers that were sent home with students Thursday, Jan. 12.
“We’re doing something because we wanted to help people,” said Lucas.
“Some kids don’t have proper clothes to be outside. We’re trying to make a change to help them,” added Zander.
“We just want to help keep people as warm as the rest of us through the winter and colder days,” Tatiana noted. “Hopefully, we can make a big difference for a lot of people.”