Hats, scarves and mittens may not be traditional holiday tree decorations, but they are for the Bank of Montreal in the Cataraqui Centre. Each year, after Remembrance Day, staff at the branch put up their eight foot Christmas tree and they ask the community to help decorate it with items to help keep kids warm over the winter.
“I came up with the idea about nine years ago when I was in Gananoque,” explained Financial Services Manager Kimberly Dunn. “I was inspired to start the campaign after seeing that some children in the community were coming in and it was freezing cold and they didn’t have hats or mitts on. I brought it up to my branch manager and asked if we could have a donation tree and it just expanded from there.”
Dunn kept the momentum going when she came to Kingston and the Cataraqui Centre branch has been decorating their tree for the past six years. Each year more and more people give and the number of donated items continues to increase.
“Each year it has grown and grown,” said Dunn who pointed out that in 2014 they received 60 items and now they receive nearly triple that number. “Because we are in the mall, people walk by and see it and that encourages them to inquire and hopefully donate.”
Staff work together to make clients aware of the campaign and while there is no competition to beat the donations from the year before, they have had to increase the tree size.
“That was a bit strategic I guess,” said Dunn. “Each year we have clients who will knit all year just to donate as many items as they can and that is really incredible to see.”
This year, 186 items were collected and donated to United Way KFL&A on December 13, bringing the branch’s total to over 800 items in the past six years. The items are then distributed through baskets to various organizations in the community. For Branch Manager, Heather Praskey, the tree is an inspiration and she is happy her team works so hard to support the community and the United Way.
“The spirit of giving and the United Way campaign are near and dear to my heart and every year I look forward to being involved seeing what we can do,” she said. “It also really inspires our clients when they come in and see this all decorated and I hope they take that away with them too. Keeping children warm is such an important thing and one we don’t always think about, but the need is there.”
Holiday giving and gifts in kind are always appreciated at this time of year and United Way is always happy to help you connect with those in need. To learn more about ways to give in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington community this season visit https://www.unitedwaykfla.ca/ways-to-give/holiday-giving/
Photos from the 2018 BMO Hat and Mitt Tree
Watch a segment on YourTV’s Limestone Lens featuring the BMO Hat and Mitt tree