Donations to annual AO coat drive will help keep Huntsville families warm this winter

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Algonquin Outfitters (AO) put out the call and for the sixth year in a row the Huntsville community responded. Each November, the company runs a coat drive in support of The Table Soup Kitchen Foundation. Donations of warm, washed and wearable jackets go to the organization’s Exchange Store where families in need can pick them up for free. This year, the coat drive received 50 items, both jackets and snow pants.

“It means a lot because there are so many people who come in who don’t have warm coats,” said Susie LaRose, the Exchange Store’s co-ordinator. “Especially this time of year when people are concentrating on Christmas gifts… this is a really great help.”

“And we love that Algonquin Outfitters has done this for six years,” added Heather Berg, The Table’s CEO. “We love that we can rely on their annual coat drive. It’s something that we look forward to and our guests look forward to.”

Many of the coats are great quality, ensuring they will last more than one season. Berg was happy to see quality kids’ snow pants among the donations, too, something the Exchange Store is often short on. It’s the kind of gift that keeps giving—The Table’s guests will bring durable kids’ winter clothing back to the Exchange Store when it is outgrown by their own children so that it can help someone else out.

“The coat drive is a community effort,” said Randy Mitson, AO’s Marketing Director. “Without the donations, it just wouldn’t happen. We facilitate it and encourage it.” Some AO customers take advantage of the store’s November incentive—donate a coat, buy a coat and get a $50 gift card—while others just want to donate a jacket they aren’t using to a good cause.

In addition to running the coat drive this year, AO donated six sleeping bags to the men’s shelter.

Every December, AO also sponsors a family from The Table and their customers help out with that, too. If they make a donation to The Table at the store, AO will pay the tax on their purchase of clothing or footwear. “Some people will donate the equivalent of the tax, some will make an even bigger donation,” noted Mitson. “That adds up quickly.”

Last year, AO had an excess of funds after buying everything on the family’s wish list. So this year, in addition to sponsoring another family, they are giving The Table $1,000 to purchase needed items for men at the men’s shelter, like warm socks and jackets.

AO’s giving doesn’t stop at Huntsville’s borders. Algonquin Outfitters stores across Muskoka provide similar help in their local areas. In the past they have even helped a Haliburton-area family by purchasing a computer and setting up internet access so the kids could get their homework done, and they bought another family a freezer filled with meat.

“(AO owners) Rich and Sue are big community supporters. There are so many things they try to do,” said Mitson. “With 14 stores all in the same region, we are very reliant on the community to support us and we want to support our communities back.”

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