This weekend, winter clothing is available at the Mattawa River Resort. Coats, boots, jackets, and other seasonal threads are available to anyone needing such items, all free for the taking.
“We have a tonne of winter jackets,” explained Nicole Grigorov, who organized and is hosting the event, which runs this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Snow pants, boots, mitts, hats,” and the list goes on, she said, adding there are also some school supplies available and backpacks.
“Some are brand new with tags,” Grigorov said, “and some are gently used.”
Grigorov’s friends Bill and Rhonda Shields run a charity in Oakville called SafetyNet, “probably one of the biggest charities in Ontario” which donates clothing, food, music lessons, tutoring, and household items to those in need.
The couple recently visited Grigorov and their young daughter Riley, noticed the amount of homeless people in downtown North Bay, and in Mattawa.
“So she took notice to the need,” in the community, Grigorov said, “and asked if we could do a clothing drive here in the north, and help our brothers and sisters up here.”
There was mutual agreement, and the Shields began collecting items in Oakville to donate to the cause.
“I just wanted to do something positive,” Grigorov said, “and this little girl gave me hope, so we called it Riley’s Hope.”
Grigorov “made several trips,” to Oakville, “brought back a bunch of stuff, and we’re ready to have it this weekend.”
Located at 6251 highway 17 in Mattawa, Grigorov knows that some people may not be able to make it out themselves— “we’re in the middle of the bush”—so she plans to make the rounds to shelters in the area, North Bay’s tent city, and women’s shelters to offer residents some clothing options.
She admits organizing an event like this can be difficult as “a lot of people in need don’t have cars,” so she is doing her best to outreach to the community to ensure the clothes find their way onto people’s backs.
Times have been difficult for so many, and Grigorov wants to shine light, worried that “the world has become such a mean place right now, and the keyboard warriors have such nasty things to say, so we need to do some nice things.”
“And here’s this little girl,” she said of Riley, “innocent, and she just noticed these people in need and we’re doing something about it.”
“It’s a little breath of hope for all of us.”
Financial struggle and possible homelessness looms large for many these days— “that could be me, that could be you”—she said. “Nobody is beyond losing everything right now” given the state of the world.
Riffing on that note, Grigorov wants everyone to know that although some may feel self-conscious for coming to an event like this—especially in a small town—"everyone is welcome” to pick up some clothes, “and there is no judgment.”
“I think the most important piece for me, is that people understand that all of us right now are facing challenges.”
“It’s about giving back and being kind to each other,” she said, “because that’s what it’s all about, right?”
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca