Knitting the gift of warmth in southwest Montreal

·2 min read
Colleen Gleadall is a Salvation Army Captain and a pastor at the Montreal Citadel Church. With the help of a knitting circle, a tree outside her Ville-Émard church has been decked out with warm winter items available to anyone in need. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)
Colleen Gleadall is a Salvation Army Captain and a pastor at the Montreal Citadel Church. With the help of a knitting circle, a tree outside her Ville-Émard church has been decked out with warm winter items available to anyone in need. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)

Colleen Gleadall want people in her neighbourhood to know they're free to take the scarves, mittens and toques adorning a Christmas tree on Monk Boulevard in Ville Émard if they need them.

The tree sits outside Gleadall's Montreal Citadel church and has been decked out every December since 2018, with items created by a Salvation Army knitting circle and help from the local merchant's association.

"We have a group of about 20 ladies that meet throughout the year," said Gleadall. "It gets cold in Montreal so we had the idea, 'Wouldn't it be great if they could knit some items that keep people warm?'"

As a Salvation Army Captain and a pastor, Gleadall is familiar with the needs of her community.

"We work with a vulnerable population through our food bank and we recognize the need is there. To be able to provide some of those essential items to keep people warm this winter is important to us."

"There's a dignity piece we want to offer as well," she added. "Making this anonymous — people can just grab it as they need to."

In the past, she says the group has knitted as many as 200 items.

This year the knitting circle hasn't been able to gather as often, due to public health restrictions, but hopes the 60 or so pairs of mittens, toques and scarves they've made will be enough to stock the tree through December.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC
Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Ginette Poulin has lived in Ville Émard for 45 years, volunteers with the Salvation Army and regularly participates in the Stitch & Chat knitting circle.

"We love to knit," she said. "We do it all year long because it takes time to knit them. At the end of the year we have all kinds of stuff to give away and it's a pleasure to see people grabbing it."

"I pass by often and the tree is full. And I come by an hour later and there's nothing left."

"It makes us happy," she said.

Gleadall and the Salvation Army also coordinated a Christmas hamper project that handed out turkeys, food and toys for kids 12 and under that were recently delivered to hundreds of a families.

She hopes the spirit of giving and the sense of community she and Poulin have helped foster in Ville Émard spread to other parts of the city.

"We'd love to see it catch on, we'd love to see other places do the same thing — to look out for one another."

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