Ann Mutch would love for her Cozy Crew to no longer be needed.
Sadly, she anticipates demand to remain high for the year-round volunteer service offered by this charitable group of five.
“We’re hoping that the need is going to decrease but that is not likely going to happen,’’ said Mutch.
The need, one that is considerable and ongoing, is for providing clothing to many students from one school to the next.
In 2004, that need became quite evident to Mutch and her colleagues with the Eastern School District board office.
“It came to our attention that there were some children in the Souris school that did not have any coats and didn’t have any proper winter foot wear,’’ said Tanya O’Connor-Flynn.
A group, soon to be calling themselves the Cozy Crew, went to Froggies to buy boots and coats for about 10 students.
That would prove to be only the tip of the iceberg.
The group heard of two brothers in Charlottetown that shared a winter coat. One day, one brother would wear the lone coat. The next day, the other brother would don the warm jacket while his sibling made do with less adequate clothing.
“It just broke our hearts...it just really hit home that some people are in desperate situations,’’ said O’Connor-Flynn. “We realized that it was an ongoing issue.’’
So the Cozy Crew was established to provide an ongoing response to the problem. They wanted to do the best they could to help students that were falling through the clothing cracks.
There were — and still are — many.
While perhaps 15 to 20 children received clothing from the Cozy Crew in 2004, the project has grown to the point where it now provides up to 100 students a year with anything from sneakers to winter coats.
Four of the original five members remain, each spending many hours gathering and storing clothes to be distributed to students.
Janet McQuaid joined the crew of Mutch, O’Connor-Flynn, Louise Bruce and Tony Gould a few years back. McQuaid says she is saddened to see that so many children need this type of charity in order to be properly clothed.
That heavy demand, though, makes her resolve all the stronger.
“You know the need is there,’’ she said. “These guys (the Cozy Crew gang) have started something that is a tremendous help to the schools.’’
The crew is always on the hunt for clothing.
They scan yard sales.
They constantly keep an eye out for bargains in the stores.
Friends will send in a bag of homemade mitts and hats.
The Cozy Crew is particularly indebted to The Island Tel Pioneers for donating a huge box of clothes every winter for a number of years.
O’Connor-Flynn and company hold a pancake breakfast each year to raise funds to purchase clothing. Often times, though, they dip into their own pockets to buy clothes.
Some of the Cozy Crew even pull out knitting needles. They also make minor repairs to the clothing when needed. They have no interest or intention, however, to ever give inferior clothing to students.
Guidance counselors and school administrators are quite familiar with the program. They work with the Cozy Crew to ensure clothing is discreetly delivered where it is most needed.
The positive response to the project only fuels the commitment to carry on.
“We hear word back from the school to say ‘if you could have seen little Suzie’s face when she put on those new mitts and boots,’’’ said O’Connor Flynn.
“To know that a child is warm and cozy for the winter, that’s a very good feeling.’’