Winnipeggers have been in the giving spirit a little more than usual this winter, prompting some of the city’s non-profits to reduce — or put on pause — accepting clothing and home goods donations for the time being.
"Across Manitoba the amount of donations that we’ve received throughout the whole past year, especially during a pandemic… it’s been amazing and overwhelming, but due to lack of space we aren’t able to properly see what we have so we’re taking a pause to regroup," said Tara Zajac, executive director of the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre.
This past week the centre posted to social media asking Winnipeggers to hold off on donating items aside from non-perishable foods. In an interview Friday, Zajac attributed some of the extra generosity to an increased attention to the issues facing members of Winnipeg’s community.
"There’s almost an upside to this pandemic that it’s giving people an opportunity to step back and realize how fortunate many of us are," she said.
The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre exists in one of Winnipeg’s food deserts — the nearest grocery store is on Main Street in the downtown core — and the centre has seen people step up to donate food, shampoo, feminine hygiene products and diapers that some residents might have a hard time accessing during the pandemic.
"People would come with van loads of stuff," Zajac said. "Sometimes we’re getting such amazing donations of 20 to 30 bags packed with stuff."
One donor came with two minivan-loads filled to the brim with bags. The centre has seen a huge influx in blanket donations. Two small rooms in the centre are packed to the brim with warm winter gear, Zajac said.
Nearby at Winnipeg’s Main Street Project, staff are also asking the community to hold off on donating most types of clothing as they sort through a mountainous pile of donations that poured in during the city’s recent cold snap.
"As soon as that cold snap hit Winnipeg we got a pretty big influx. We were already getting a steady flow as soon as the cold weather hit and we put the call out," said director of development Anastasia Ziprick.
"We have a mountain of clothing and warm stuff."
Main Street Project’s donations are all sorted by volunteers, so the centre is taking a pause to sort through the "thousands of bags" donated by Manitobans across the province before reopening its clothing donations.
The usual spring-cleaning donations have been augmented by the increased attention on vulnerable Manitobans taking shelter outdoors during this winter’s deep freeze, Ziprick said.
"I think because homelessness and poverty is so much on display in the city, people can see it, it’s inescapable and there’s an urge to do something," she added.
Main Street Project is still hoping to receive new adult underwear, financial donations, non-perishable foods and bottled water as they sort through clothing donations.
At the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, teams will spend some time sorting through donations to decide what else is needed before reopening donations in the next couple weeks.
The centre is always open for non-perishable food and financial donations to support the food hamper and emergency foods programs (which currently puts together 125 hampers per week) and the centre’s ongoing work.
Zajac stressed those who want to donate should call ahead to ask what the centre could use to best support its work.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.