Waterloo family aims to keep people warm with newly installed donation cabinet

By Taylor McClure – Special to Brome County News

A new donation cabinet for warm clothing has been installed behind the Centre d’action bénévole aux 4 vents (CAB) in Waterloo as a result of a family initiative. Joey Deschênes, with the help of his partner Kelly Renaud and their three children, Louka, Logan, and Tyler, installed the cabinet a few weeks ago after seeing a similar project kickstarted my a resident of St-Jérome. As someone that likes to find ways to give back, Deschênes immediately knew that the initiative was something he wanted to bring to his community.

Deschênes is the owner of Immersium jeux d’évasion and his own moving company, but with Immersium jeux d’évasion closed and it being a quiet time of the year for moving, he wanted to invest his free time doing something good for his fellow residents. “When I saw it, I said it is certain that I am going to be doing something like that in Waterloo,” said Deschênes.
He immediately started making phone calls to see what could be done. “At the beginning I was supposed to do it at Immersium. I called the town and they directed me to the Centre d’action bénévole to try to set up the display there,” said Deschênes. “I contacted Josée (director of CAB) and she was elated to hear about our project.”

“It is complementary to our service offerings. It is just beside the community fridge. People who come for the community fridge will now also have access to warm clothing,” mentioned Josée Archambault.

The cabinet is a space where people can drop off warm items of clothing – they are looking specifically for coats, snow pants, boots, tuques, gloves, scarves, socks, and blankets – that are then readily available for anyone who needs it. Each shelf is color-coordinated for efficiency, and a large poster has been set up beside the cabinet to inform people what items goes with each color. Deschênes is also asking anyone who wants to donate, to put their items in bags to avoid moisture damage; there are some bags available on site.

“Someone who has coats can come and bring them here and anyone who needs it, can take the coat, hats, boots,” explained Deschênes. “It is color-coordinated to make things easier, the red sector is for coats, etc., and it just makes it easier to organize and for the person that needs something. When it’s -30 outside, they don’t have to look through everything for 20 minutes.”

So far, things have gone smoothly with the project. When the Brome County News spoke with Deschênes last Wednesday, two days had passed since the last time he stopped by the cabinet and he arrived to bags of new items. “Everything was taken during those two days and there was a lot of new stock. A lot of people are taking, but a lot of people are giving.”

“It is clear that it is responding to a need,” added Archambault. “This morning we arrived and it was full and this afternoon half of it is empty.”

Deschênes didn’t think the initiative would become so popular, but it has so far been embraced by the community. Describing himself as someone that has always liked to give back, he also wanted to bring the initiative to Granby, but they had something similar in place and wanted to stick with it, and he already has plans for future projects. “I have my moving company so once I find storage units, I’m going to start moving people who are victims of domestic violence.”

At the end of the day, whether he had the free time or not, Deschênes knew that he was going to bring his current project to life in some way. “It doesn’t cost much to help people and maybe even save a life.”

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