Weaving in the warmth

Jessica Latour shows off one of the many hats she made and a box full of donations for SWAT North at her home May 8. Photo by Sarah Ladik NNSL

Jessica Latour shows off one of the many hats she made and a box full of donations for SWAT North at her home May 8.
Photo by Sarah Ladik

When Jessica Latour couldn’t find a Northern organization where she could donate warm things for people who needed them, she and a friend started their own.

Spreading Warmth Across The North, better known as SWAT North, began about six weeks ago, but is only gaining steam. Latour’s idea is to facilitate the donation of handmade knit and crocheted items like hats, mittens, and scarves to needy people across the territory.

“There are homeless and children without proper winter gear,” she said. “There’s a need, especially in the North.”
Latour said she had seen similar concepts in the south and wondered why it hadn’t been done yet in the NWT. She said she doesn’t want to overcomplicate things and for the moment she and Beverly Schaefer, her friend and SWAT North co-founder, will only accept donations of items as opposed to money.

“We’re hoping for hats, mitts, socks, and scarves for all ages and genders,” said Latour.

In addition to looking for donors, the duo is also recruiting distributors in the communities to make sure the items reach the people who need them most. Latour said she is hoping to work with as many social services centres as possible along with hospitals, nursing stations, and non-profit organizations.

This is not, however, her first experience with donations of the warm and fuzzy variety. Latour also spent a year making stuffed animals, called sock monkeys, each day for charity and said she wants to continue helping where she can.

“The reality is that if you have some change lying around on the table, you’re in the top 10 per cent of the population of the world,” she said. “I really just want people to get that feeling of wanting to give back.”

The active group of knitting and crocheting aficionados in town are also getting in on the action. Boxes for donations have been placed at Wesclean as well as She Takes the Cake’s new location.

“SWAT is an awesome idea,” said Danielle Sachs, organizer of Knit Nights at She Takes the Cake. “I’m happy that people are starting to contribute and I’ll definitely be tossing in a few things before fall.”

Although the initiative has yet to receive many items, Latour said they got a call from a former Hay Riverite now living in British Columbia, along with a promise of about 100 items made for donation by that resident’s seniors’ group.

“It’ll be amazing to get all of that, but it’s up to anyone who wants to donate to decide how much … it can be as small as they like,” she said.
She also noted that while SWAT can’t currently accept any large items like blankets, there may be room for growth in the future.

“Who knows how big this could get?” asked Latour. “It might get much bigger than just Bev and I and then we might be looking at bigger donations.”

But for now, SWAT has modest goals. Latour wants to collect as many items as possible by mid-August this year so they can be sent off before the cold weather sets in further north.

“We don’t care if one mitt is a bit bigger than the other, it doesn’t have to be perfect,” she said. “It’s about what’s in your heart.”

-Sarah Ladik