Do you have some extra winter clothing you’re not sure what to do with? Consider donating it to the NOTL Farmworker Hub.
Seasonal agricultural workers will be begin returning in January and the Farmworkers Hub is badly in need of winter clothes for them.
Where the back rooms off the hub in Virgil are normally bursting with donations, bins are empty and the tables are clear.
“You can imagine with 3,000 visits that we did this year in seven and a half months, the overstock in the background needs to be full,” said Julia Buxton-Cox, founder of the Farmworker Hub.
“And the bins in our sorting room are empty. There’s nothing there,” she told The Lake Report.
She started the organization in 2021 during the COVID pandemic to help seasonal agricultural workers who come to Canada from around the world. The hub provides them with essential items at no cost.
Gear comes from residents, charities and businesses.
“Anything that’s collected, we give away at no cost. So it’s completely free to the workers,” Buxton-Cox said.
The most urgent items needed are work pants (in sizes 32 to 36), hoodies, winter jackets and long-sleeve, buttoned shirts.
The hub only has nine winter jackets and 12 hoodies as of this week – not nearly enough given the hundreds of workers they’ll be seeing in the new year.
“So many of them don’t have the ability to buy a winter coat in their home countries because it’s very hot where they come from,” said Buxton-Cox.
She also noted that, especially in the winter months, workers are always layering up to try to keep warm – particularly during icewine season.
Long-sleeve, buttoned shirts not only add an extra layer of warmth, but in the warmer months they protects workers’ skin from the peach fuzz, which can be an irritant.
Other items the workers require include backpacks, food, towels, sheets and running shoes. However, the four main winter items are the top priority.
Workers start arriving in January, with the main influx coming near March and April to work at the vineyards and the orchards.
With the number of workers they helped last year, the hub is hoping to bring on more volunteers in the new year to help with sorting, driving, interacting with workers and writing applications for grants.
“My favourite thing about the hub is the relationships that we’ve all fostered,” said Brittney Sliasas, the agency’s volunteer co-ordinator.
The hub is located in Cornerstone Community Church at 1570 Niagara Stone Rd.
Though it is closed to the public until mid-March, staff are still accepting donations and continue to work hard behind the scenes. During the off-season, they deliver any requests they receive directly to the farmworkers.
Anyone interested in donating can contact Buxton-Cox at 905-483-9717 and arrange either a pick up or drop off at her home in the Chautauqua neighbourhood. There is also a donation bin outside by the front door of the hub.
“Please don’t think that one pair of jeans doesn’t matter. It does,” she said.
“Every single coat, even if you have one pair of jeans or one coat. It all makes a big difference in the life of a worker who’s coming here for eight to 10 months of the year,” she added.