Bissell Centre annual Drop your Gonch underwear donation drive supersedes expectations after slow start


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After concerns of missing the donation goal, Edmontonians stepped up to the plate in only a few days to raise more than $35,000 to purchase underwear for those in need.

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The money raised last week will go toward 11,880 pairs of underwear, smashing the Bissell Centre’s annual Drop your Gonch campaign goal of 10,000.

But early on in the fundraiser, the community agency wasn’t sure it was going to meet its goal this time around, still below 50 per cent of the target as of Thursday and within two days of the deadline. Bissell Centre spokeswoman Scarlet Bjornson said she decided to put another call out, but understood that the COVID-19 pandemic had taken an economic toll on many who wouldn’t be able to give as much. The urgent need would have still been covered with the donations that already came in as the centre’s community closet was completely bare of undergarments.

“We were concerned that we weren’t going to meet it and that was the first time during the pandemic that we’ve actually had that concern. People have been extremely generous, especially during these hard times and so people are giving where they can,” she said in an interview with Postmedia Sunday. “Not everyone’s returning back to work so there’s still a lot of economic pressures.”

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Soon after Thursday’s call for help, many monetary donations started to trickle in including a surprise one amounting to $2,000. Funds raised will purchase 11,880 pairs of underwear ranging from boxers, briefs and bras, to give to those without. This total doesn’t include any newly-purchased underwear that has been dropped off at one of the 15 community volunteer locations throughout the drive, so the tally is expected to increase further next week, Bjornson said.

“Edmontonians took it from there and they always go above and beyond for our initiatives and anything we have on the go and this was no different and we’re just so pleased,” she said. “It’s such a special thing when people see a need out there in the community, even if all they can do is share the message and spread the word that there is a need.”

Bissell Centre staff will now go out and buy the new supply to refill the stock which typically lasts until February, but with more people entering homelessness as a result of the pandemic, Bjornson said she’s not sure if it will be the same this year.

There are about 2,500 people currently experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.