For Brandy Pfeil, one recent moment during the third annual Warm Hearts Coat Drive in Wetaskiwin tugged at her heart strings and is forever indelibly etched into her mind.
Pfeil, the Property Administrator and Marketing Coordinator for Wetaskiwin Mall, owned by Avenue Living Asset Management, gets emotional when she recalls one of the recipients of the winter jackets from the campaign.
“The standout moment this year was there was a gentleman who came in and had a voucher just for himself, no family members. He waited until the room cleared out and he started tearing up,” says Pfeil, who worked with the Boys and Girls Club for three years before joining the mall.
“He was in his late 30s or early 40s. He’d lived his entire life without a brand new winter jacket. He came in wearing five hoodies. It took him a few minutes to realize that he could take those hoodies off and put a jacket on and he would be plenty warm.
“That was a huge eyeopener. Some of these things we take for granted. If we need a new jacket, we just go to the store and buy one. But not everybody can do that.”
The mall teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin to put on the annual drive.
Avenue Living, an asset manager of commercial, residential and agricultural properties across Western Canada, contributed 33 new winter jackets, while 62 were donated by people in the community.
“The intention was to be able to help our community out by providing warm coats and winter gear for those who are accessing support services and emergency services in Wetaskiwin, with a special focus on children. There were vouchers given out through the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin and their partner agencies. They work alongside a lot of different agencies in the community,” says Pfeil.
“Our school district has a policy that kids cannot come to school on school buses unless they have both jackets and snow pants. A lot of children and youth are not able to access education through the winter months if they don’t have the proper winter attire to be able to take the school bus.”
The annual campaign has grown since it first began in 2017, when 35 coats were distributed within the community. Last year, about 60 purchased and donated coats were handed out.
“Community outreach is a huge, huge portion of what Avenue Living does because Avenue Living is effectively in so many different communities. Our customers, our residents, are our main priority – whether that’s on the commercial or the residential side,” says Pfeil.
“Being able to support our community, support those in our community who are sometimes doing without, it’s near and dear to our hearts. First and foremost, everybody who works with Avenue Living in individual locations, that’s their community. They’re engrossed in their community. They’re part of what goes on. Being able to give back to the people that we see day to day, be it our neighbours, or friends, is of huge importance.”
Last year, Pfeil remembers a young family in their early 20s with a boy about three years old. They all received new jackets and the father began tearing up.
“This was the first winter jacket that he’d had since he was probably 12 or 13. He was so excited to be able to put his jacket on and he was going to go out and play in the snow with his son when they got home,” says Pfeil.
It’s those moments that resonate within the community, highlighting the importance of giving back and helping those in need.