The Gift of Jackets, Gloves, and Kindness

With freezing cold temperatures across North America, 2019’s winter season has been brutal, but every winter is tough in British Columbia.


“….People call and say we have no gloves, we have no toques (beanies), we have nothing, we’re freezing. The cold spells that have just happened, have us out for all of our inventory” says Sanja Poitras as she wraps her jacket closer to her. Sanja and her husband founded Help on Wheels, a community outreach program that collects donations, and delivers food, clothes, and other necessities to people in need.

“We’re working with several schools in the lower mainland. Where the kids just have zero clothes, zero warm clothes but also zero footwear” Sanja adds, her voice wrapped in concern.Help on Wheels began in 2010, but Sanja has always been involved with her community. So what started it all? She volunteered to help a school’s clothing closet and realized the need.


“I remember clearly witnessing the need in that school and I kept saying “someone should do something about this!” And the still small voice said “YOU should do something about this!

What was missing was the LINK between the people who had stuff to give and those that had a need. There literally was not an organization that received inventory for free and gave it to people in need for free. So my husband and I and our 7 kids stepped up. We both quit our jobs and funded this charity with our savings and the rest is history.

Since then, Sanja has partnered with many organizations in the community, among them, the INC Giving project. The INC Giving project is a community outreach program of the Church Of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo) has reached out to Help on Wheels in 2012, and this year, they decided to pitch in again.

Volunteers like Homer Conception know exactly what to donate.
“Everything, from pants to shirts to gloves to toques. Anything to keep you warm. And we can definitely give more and this is just a small part of what we can do. It’s a great thing for all of us to be a part of and it’s really exciting and fun for all of us.” Homer smiles even though he is shivering.
INC Giving volunteers have gathered from all over British Columbia. They keep themselves warm by lifting and carrying boxes filled with warm clothes.

Volunteers load a box of donated winter clothing into a van.
Open box of donated winter clothing.
Volunteers load multiple boxes of donated winter wear into the Help on Wheels van.

“This is what we do in the Church. Every time we give what we have, we share what we have, we are always happy. This also as the instruction of the Church Administration on their campaign to follow and fulfill the commandments of our Almighty God which is in the bible which helps our fellow men.”

Says Brother Moriel Cadacio a minister of the gospel, overseeing the winter wear drive. At the end of the day, Sanja has collected 3,565 lbs of clothing from INC Giving Volunteers. “The quality of the donations has always been amazing, so the impact itself is just, if you can imagine a single mom with four kids and the kid, the two-year-old has got cancer in his spine, and the six-year-old is actually trying to be the mom, but they have nothing. No clothes, no shoes, no food, so we have just been so lucky when we get donations like this because you guys just labeled them, so it’s wiping out all of our labor on our side, so we just open the box and say “Here you go.” And to be able to help in a time like that is just, I don’t even, I don’t want to start crying so let’s just move on. But it’s an impact, you guys are amazing.”

If you would like to make a donation to help on wheels email sanja@helponwheels.ca

To find out more about volunteering opportunities with inc giving, visit incgiving.org

Janlynn Valerio, a staff writer & web content producer at incmedia.org. She’s originally from Hawaii and that’s why she likes to wear slippers in the winter.