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Spreading warmth throughout Wairarapa

A Masterton mum, educator and advocate feels “privileged” to help spread some much-needed warmth to Wairarapa this winter.

Liz Polley is the new coordinator for Wairarapa Winter Jackets [WWJ], a charitable organisation distributing donations of warm clothing – primarily jackets and coats – to whānau in need.

WWJ was founded in 2019 by Featherston local Sophie Leloir – to help “connect cold kids and adults with the warm jackets, hats and scarves they need to stay healthy” and relieve financial pressure on families.

The initiative, running out of the Masterton Plunket Clinic on Worksop Road, was met with an outpouring of support, receiving donations from schools, businesses and anonymous donors alike.

Polley, an early childhood teacher, stepped into the WWJ coordinator’s role late last month, succeeding Leloir, who will shortly be moving out of the region.

With the winter months approaching, she is already hard at work collecting new donations, with the unseasonal summer weather having depleted its stores.

Despite her busy schedule, Polley said she jumped at the chance to “take on a new challenge” – inspired by witnessing her pupils and their families struggle with the increased cost of living.

“For so many families, finances are a huge barrier to keeping warm and fed. And it shouldn’t be that way,” the mum-of-four said.

“If kids have access to warm clothing, they’re more likely to thrive – it’s an essential part of a child’s wellbeing. Parents shouldn’t have to go through so much emotional stress to provide their kids with the basics.

“I consider it a privilege to help relieve some of that stress. Having worked in ECE for over 30 years, it’s in my skin to advocate for kids in need – if you can do something to help, why wouldn’t you?”

Polley said WWJ welcomes donations of “all kinds of jackets” – puffers, heavy winter coats, or rainwear – in all children’s sizes – “as long as they’re clean and in good condition”.

Clothing can be delivered to the Plunket Clinic or various drop-off points throughout the region: More FM Wairarapa, The Offering in Greytown, the Featherston Community Centre, and the libraries in each of the five towns.

Families can make requests for jackets via WWJ’s Facebook page and collect them from the Plunket Clinic – and can ask for a contactless pick-up, if necessary.

“Some people feel real shame when they feel like they can’t provide for their families. So, they don’t need to see me – I’m happy just to bag up their order and leave it out for them,” Polley said.

“It’s important their mana is kept intact.”

Polley is liaising with the Masterton Food Bank, which has previously distributed jackets to families coming in for food parcels. She also hopes to “branch out” and involve schools and kindergartens in the project.

She said she is heartened by the support WWJ has received so far: Schools have organised jacket collection drives, local venues have hosted fundraiser comedy shows, and families have donated brand-new Kathmandu puffers to “pay it forward”.

“People have been amazing. Whenever the chips are down, Wairarapa people will step in and help.”

For more information or to request a jacket, message the Wairarapa Winter Jackets Facebook page, or contact the Masterton Plunket Clinic on 0800 184 803.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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