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Catholic Central students kick off annual coat drive amid increased demand for winter wear | CBC News

Students at London’s Catholic Central High School (CCH) continue their tradition of collecting coats for those in need, all as demand for winter wear climbs alongside the cost of living across the country.

The annual Catholic Central High School Coat Drive, run in partnership with the London Fire Department, has entered its 22nd year, and places particular emphasis on involving students in its operation.

“I think I see in young people today a real desire to do good in the world and sometimes it just takes an adult or someone who’s been in the school and been in the community for a while to just help direct a little bit, but the real desire is in them. I see that every day,” said Lisa Moynihan, a teacher at CCH.

As part of the drive, the public is invited to donate gently used or new coats at fire halls across the city, where volunteers from CCH will then pick them up until Dec. 16. Other items are also accepted.

“Warm accessories, hats, mitts, gloves, and anything else that would help keep a person warm in the winter,” said Maya Sterling, a Grade 12 student at the school who has been involved in the annual drive since grade nine.

As students at a downtown high school, Moynihan said she and her peers see the need for compassion and charity on a daily basis. A large number of London’s most vulnerable individuals live in or around the downtown core.

(Sara Jabakhanji/CBC)

“It’s a really important opportunity that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily get in high school. I’m very grateful to be part of it,” said Victoria Duffy, another student volunteer involved in the drive.

The drive is organized by Crusaders in Action, a club that has been running for 8 years at CCH. Donors come from both within and outside of the school, with coats being collected from the student body at the high school alongside donations at London fire halls.

Typically, donations vary each year, and have ranged from 100 to 800 coats and other winter wear over the course of the campaign, according to organizers.

This year, staff and students behind the coat drive are hoping for more engagement from the community as London’s homeless population grows.

In early October, the London Homeless Coalition held a memorial service for 57 Londoners who died as a result of homelessness. At that time, Dr. Andrea Sereda, a member of The Forgotten 519, a collective of frontline workers advocating for the city’s most vulnerable, estimated there were between 400 and 500 people living on London’s streets. 

Tracey Morton-Sader, co-ordinator at St. Joe’s Cafe, one of the places the CCH coat drive supplies with winter wear, said with every donation of clothing that comes in, it is immediately given away due to higher than usual demand.

“There’s also a lot of theft out there … people go to sleep at night and wake up and they don’t have their coat, so there’s a lot of replacing,” said

Wet weather also further exacerbates the problem, according to Morton-Sader, who said people experiencing homelessness rarely have a place to dry their socks and other items, so they are often ruined.

Morton-Sader works with student volunteers from CCH frequently, and said their work has a positive impact on those who need it most.

“I think it’s wonderful. This is our future. I’m not too scared about our future with some of these students that come through here,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

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