Winter Coat Drive Wraps Up

By Kevin Masterman, Toronto Police Service Published: 4:11 p.m. January 3, 2014
Updated: 10:11 a.m. January 4, 2014

On what has been the coldest day of the winter, Const. Joanne Tawton and Station Operator Gary Long distributed winter coats to those who need them most at downtown shelters.

Two women and one man stand among piles of clothing
Liz Ozolins, Const. Joanne Tawton and Station Operator Gary Long stand among the donations

The pair, who work at the Duty Desk, along with Tawton's sister Liz Ozolins, sorted through over 500 coats on Jan. 3 that were dropped off at Police Headquarters since the start of the drive in early December.

The coats, along with scarves, gloves, sweaters and boots are headed to downtown shelters such as Covenant House, the Scott Mission and Salvation Army.

"I can't imagine being out there in this weather with the clothing that they are wearing," Tawton said, of the homeless she has seen over the course of the winter. "Especially with the temperatures that we're having."

It's the second year they've collected coats at headquarters but not the first time Tawton has visited shelters with gifts, whether it be chocolates or gift baskets.

"It's unbelievable, they're overwhelmed," said Tawton, of those visits. "They can't believe people care that much and would go to the trouble of delivering the gifts."

A woman and man stand amid coats. The man is throwing a coat towards a pile
Station Operator Gary Long throws a coat into a pile destined for those in need
A close up of a pile of coats
Coats pile up at Headquarters

Long outfitted one man who came into headquarters early over the holidays with a coat and gloves.

"It was a Maple Leafs jacket, he was over the moon," Long said. "It really makes the holiday season special to give back like that."

He said the response to the coat drive has been overwhelming and inspired his holiday spirit.

"The response is phenomenal," said Long, who uses the handle @GoForGary on Twitter. "People have been contacting me over social media since November." 

One of his Twitter followers donated eight bags she collected from family members.

The spirit of giving has not ended as the Divisional Policing Support Unit has spearheaded a winter boot drive that begins on Saturday, Jan. 4.

Anyone with new or lightly used winter boots is asked to drop them off at any Toronto Police Division  Station or at Police Headquarters (40 College St.) until Jan. 12.

Winter coats of different colours in a pile
A pile of coats donated by Service members and the public
TPS crest watermark