Peerless Garments doesn't normally make sleeping bags, but the company will make an exception and adapt its manufacturing process to provide free bags to needy people.
This was the surprise announcement at Thursday's kickoff press conference for the third annual CEO Sleepout on Sept. 26.
'Sometimes the best ideas are spontaneous'
Albert El Tassi, president and CEO of Peerless, spoke up with an offer of comfort -- 100 sleeping bags and at least two dozen coats.
"We will make 100 sleeping bags to give away to people who need them," El Tassi said from his seat in the crowd. During his brief speech as a participating CEO, he had already pledged at least two dozen coats.
"If you need a coat, you come see me," he said to the delight of the assembled crowd.
El Tassi is one of 100 chief executive officers, community leaders and members of the media who will sleep outside on Sept. 26 at 201 Portage Avenue (corner of Portage and Main) to raise money and draw attention to the plight of homeless people.
El Tassi extended his offer after it was mentioned that at last year's Sleepout, some participants gave away their sleeping bags during the night to people on the street who didn't have warm blankets.
He said sleeping bags are not on his company's usual list of items manufactured, but "I'm going to create some. I can make them; it's not a problem. We provide garments for the entire army, navy, air force, RCMP so I can make anything. We're going to make these sleeping bags at Peerless. Sometimes the best ideas are spontaneous."
The sleeping bags will take a few weeks to make, so El Tassi said they will be delivered to Siloam Mission upon completion. He'll bring the coats to the sleepout to give away that night to people who need them.
Overall, $100,000 has already been raised toward this year's event but the overall goal is $150,000.
The money is used to fund programs such as Siloam Mission's Mission: Off the Streets Team (MOST), a program that employs people who are homeless to clean up or do other work in Winnipeg's downtown area that helps them build skills to assist the participants in getting a job. More than $220,000 has been raised in the past two years.
In 2012, 23 people were employed using funding from the CEO Sleepout for litter pickup and beautification projects.
To see a full list of participants or to donate, go to www.changeforthebetter.org. To donate by mail, send a cheque or money order made out to: Downtown Biz -- Change for the Better, 426 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, Man., R3C 0C9 or watch for collection boxes downtown.