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Annual food for clothing exchange cancelled

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

In what would have been its 32nd year, the Durham Region Schools Food for Clothing Exchange has been cancelled.

According to Event Coordinator Jim Fergusson, the core reason for the cancellation is the COVID-19 pandemic. It has forced the school board to stop handing out permits for events such as this.

Fergusson says he is heartbroken, and notes with social distancing parents aren’t even allowed in schools, where the drive takes place.

He adds social distancing would have made the event impossible.

“We get 20, 30 people in there at a time. There’s no way you can keep them six feet apart,” he says, noting this is the first time it’s been cancelled.

Fergusson is also concerned, as there are a number of families who rely on the clothing exchange. He hopes other organizations can take care of them this year.

“All I can say is, I’m sorry that we can’t do it. I was looking forward to being able to do it,” he says, pointing out there are other organizations families in need can go to, such as the Salvation Army.

But beyond that advice, Fergusson is at a loss for words, and can only hope the pandemic has come to an end next year so he can move forward with the exchange once again.

Fergusson began the exchange more than 30 years ago after an encounter with a young girl in the dead of winter.

He saw the girl walking to school with only a light jacket, track pants, and rubber boots.

After helping her get warm, Fergusson took her to school. After hearing her story and the stories of others, he decided someone needed to help children and families in need.

If the exchange was not cancelled, residents would have been invited to donate non-perishable food, if they can afford to do so, in exchange for some warm clothing.

While this year may be a wash, Fergusson is hopeful he can bring back the exchange next year, and he can continue to help those in need.