Over the years, members and guests at the Coldwater Legion have seen quite a variety of items hanging on the walls or standing in corners, everything from seasonal festive decorations to significant war memorabilia. But in recent months, a new feature has taken centre stage, one with branches and articles of clothing hanging from them. It's called The Tree of Warmth. And it all started when someone at the Branch was inspired by an on-line video about homeless people and their obvious need for warm clothes. "The idea of setting up a Tree of Warmth at the Legion was first proposed at a meeting of the Branch Executive," says Comrade Debbie Robitaille, the Entertainment Chairperson at Branch 270 Coldwater. "It was initially suggested as a means to gather warm clothes for homeless Vets, but after discussion it was decided that in a small village like Coldwater, it would be better to focus on our local community first, at least for this campaign."
And that is how Debbie got to approach local schools and local organisations to eventually find one particular group of people who, although not homeless, were very much in need of warm clothes. "A survey was done, a wish list was made, and a makeshift tree was setup in the club room at the Legion to try to attract donations of the needed clothes", she explains.
The project was an immediate success among members and guests and soon the branches of the tree began to fill with donated toques, mitts, scarfs, socks, and pretty much all types of warm clothing. To Debbie's surprise, donations sometimes came from unexpected sources. "At one point a representative of a brewery [the Horseshoe Valley Brewing Coy] noticed our initiative and offered to contribute by raising funds through the auctioning of older promotional material. I was amazed when they called me later to say that they raised more than $800, which would cover pretty much the rest of the wish list."
Although she is quite proud of the success of her initiative, Debbie doesn't want the focus to be on her, but rather on the members and supporters of the Legion who donated the clothing items to the cause. "Ì just planted the seed, and I'd like to see it grow," she says. "The feedback has been amazing. I'm overwhelmed. I didn't expect such a response. I hope somebody else will pick up the idea and adapt it to other needs. It's called the Tree of Warmth, but it doesn't have to be limited to warm clothing."