With the holiday season underway and colder months ahead, a London-area First Nation is seeking donations to supply hundreds of stockings and warm clothing for youth.
Chippewas of the Thames First Nation's health centre needs enough support by Dec. 3 to arrange at least 200 Christmas stockings and warm coats for youths aged 13 to 25 — some of the most vulnerable individuals in the community, said Meaghan MacLeod, the band's youth mental health worker.
The annual Chippewa Youth Christmas Initiative "provides youth with that connection to their culture, to their First Nation and to individuals that says, 'Look, we're thinking about you, you're on our minds. We know you, we care about you, and you're important,' " said MacLeod, who has headed the initiative for the past four years.
"A lot of these young people have gone through inter-generational trauma . . . and it's these young people that we need to lift up," she said.
The health centre is partnering with the band's youth and recreation and education teams to source, pack and distribute the stockings. Each one is filled with hygiene products — including toothbrushes, toothpaste and body wash — food items, miniature games, a $50 gift card and a sacred medicine kit.
Earlier this month, the team gathered the names and details of young people living on and off reserve, who need support to celebrate Christmas. In addition to offering custom hoodies designed by local artists Rebecca Kechego and Trevor Henry, they hope to receive enough funding to buy warm coats and boots for 212 young people.
Donations and contributions from individuals and businesses will support a growing need for warmer clothing, especially amid the pandemic when the majority of the land-based programming with young people happens outside, MacLeod said.
"Lots of young people are reaching out about winter coats," she said. "It's a very big need . . . You don't want to stay outside if you just have a $50 coat that is more styled than actually keeping you warm."
The stockings and clothing items will be distributed at the Chippewa Community Centre on Dec. 16.
The hope is to leave young people with "a sense of togetherness, caring and kindness during these winter months when (people are) feeling a little more alone," MacLeod said.
"This is really about being able to say, here you go, here's a little bit of joy, having those much-needed items in your stocking, but also, the fun stuff like the candy and chocolates."
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
What: Chippewa Youth Christmas Initiative to provide stocking and warm clothing to young people during the holiday season.
How: Interact e-transfer to Brenda French, at email@example.com, with a note that says "donation for Youth Christmas Initiative." Cheques can be dropped off in person at 320 Chippewa Rd. in Muncey.
Online: Visit chippewayouth.christmas/ to donate and learn more about the initiative.
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press