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Coat sharing service a winter winner

Heather Poechman, graduate student and project founder, prepares the Queen’s Winter Coat Exchange closet, surrounded by winter clothes for students in need of warming up.
Heather Poechman, graduate student and project founder, prepares the Queen’s Winter Coat Exchange closet, surrounded by winter clothes for students in need of warming up.

Heather Poechman organizes the closet at the back of the Room of Requirement in the JDUC building. She folds scarves and hangs up the last remaining coat in the closet. The other 49 coats that hung there at the beginning of the school year are nowhere to be found in the Queen’s Winter Coat Exchange – and that’s a good thing.

The closet has become the permanent home of the exchange, now in its second year of operation. Anyone in the Kingston community can borrow a winter jacket, or other winter gear, anonymously and give it back at the end of the semester or end of the season.

Ms. Poechman, a graduate student in Philosophy, founded the project last year. During her time as a peer advisor with the International Programs Office, she saw first-hand that some students were not prepared for the cold.

“I created this project with the idea that students travelling to a new country often experience unexpected weather changes, and that can be a big cost to them,” says Ms. Poechman. “Whether an international student comes to Queen’s in the winter or fall semester, normally they have to buy a winter coat, so I wanted to set something up that these students could borrow a coat, and then not have to bring it with them when they travel back to their home country, especially those that live in warm countries.”

Ms. Poechman says the exchange is most in need of coats, but hats, mittens, scarves, and even boots in excellent condition are welcome too. She hopes to see a bump in donations when exams end, and students begin cleaning out their closets.

“I made this an exchange program instead of a free coat program so that a student only need to have the coat for as long as they need it, and they can exchange it if they outgrow it, or want a different style,” says Ms. Poechman.

Ms. Poechman says she’s received support from the International offices across campus, the Drama department, local businesses, student volunteers, and members of the community through donations and guidance.

“This project is anonymous. I notice its success from how many coats are gone, most of the time. Last year, we only had 15 coats available. To have 50 at the beginning of this year, and all but one out being used, is a great sign that this is needed,” says Ms. Poechman. "I want there to be a large enough supply of coats this winter to meet the growing needs of students. I also want this project to continue after I leave Queen’s.”

To learn more about the exchange and how to donate, contact Heather Poechman at 12hnp@queensu.ca or 519-901-3538.