Art gallery tree needs some warming up

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A bare Christmas tree void of decorations in the Okotoks Art Gallery needs some warming up.

The Okotoks Art Gallery is hosting its annual Tree of Warmth campaign to collect new scarves, gloves, mittens, toques, socks and slippers of all sizes to hang on the tree for the Magic of Christmas backpack campaign.

Items will be collected from Nov. 17 to Dec. 8. Anything donated after that time will be given to the Salvation Army.

Gallery specialist Katrina Lougheed said approximately 100 people bring these winter essentials into the gallery each year.

“It really makes you feel good when you know how generous people are in the community,” she said.

“It proves that, over and over again, in all sorts of situations, that they really look out for their own, especially when it’s cold. It’s nice to see so many people helping others.”

Lougheed said last fall was an exceptional year for the Tree of Warmth.

“We actually had a store in Calgary give us bags and bags of hats and mitts that they had sold and recollected for charity,” she said, adding they had so many items they had to find a third charity to donate to.

Typically, the Okotoks Art Gallery staff sees individuals drop by with one or two items and place them on the Tree of Warmth.

“Every so often someone will come in with their kids after doing their shopping and donate a pair of gloves or a hat or a scarf,” she said. “Normally, we get a lot of very generous people in the area that will knit leading up to Christmas and bring in a shopping bag full of scarves.”

Items typically lacking on the Tree of Warmth include socks, slippers and adult sizes, said Lougheed.

“Warm socks in the winter are things people don’t think about having until they don’t have them,” she said. “We get lots of kids things, but not too much for adults, which we are in just as much need as kids.”

Donna Cameron, Magic of Christmas co-ordinator, said warm items are essential this time of year and appreciated.

“I’ve seen hats worn around town that were given to us,” she said. “It makes me smile. We’ve had everything from the dollar-store ones to homemade ones with big flowers on them. We love getting them.”

John Paul II Collegiate students put the items into backpacks in December, in addition to toiletries, hot chocolate, tea, toys and other items they purchase for varying age groups to be distributed by Magic of Christmas volunteers.

Recipients are referred to the not-for-profit organization after being identified as being in need, said Cameron, but not always financially.

“We’re there to bring joy, whether it’s for somebody with a disability, who lost a job, an old lady by herself, somebody that’s got sickness in the family and those financially struggling,” she said. “There’s a whole gamut of different reasons. They are gratefully received and appreciated.”

The Okotoks Art Gallery is open and welcomes donations Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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