It started with some children’s books, being given away by Whitehorse mom on Facebook.
Bree Josie in Old Crow, Yukon, saw the post and replied.
“I run a moms and babies program [in Old Crow], and said, ‘we’d love the books,'” Josie recalled.
“And that’s when Ashley piped up and said, ‘What else can we send you? What else do you need?'”
Soon Ashley Fewer and Nicole Nicholas — who was giving away the books — were collecting all kinds of other donated baby supplies to ship up to Old Crow, Yukon’s northernmost community.
Josie said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder to find some things in her community.
“Lately, with the plane coming less often in Old Crow and people stocking up on items there was a real shortage of wipes and formula,” she said.
“I ran out of wipes for my two-year-old, and I was texting everybody in town looking to buy a package of wipes…. We were getting a little desperate.”
Nicholas soon put out a call on Facebook for any donations to be sent to Josie and other young parents in Old Crow. The response was immediate, and overwhelming — some people donated goods, others gave cash to buy things to send.
“I’d run around town and pick up donations that can’t be dropped off, and Ashley would be on the receiving end of everything, holding everything at her house,” Nicholas said.
They took precautions — wearing gloves to pick up donations, and not seeing people face-to-face. Fewer feels the bigger risk was when she would go to the store to buy goods with the donated money.
“But again, I brought those items home and was able to sanitize everything before it was boxed up and shipped up to Old Crow,” she said.
The shipping was not going to be cheap — everything goes to Old Crow by air. So it was a big deal when the Council of Yukon First Nations offered to cover the shipping, Fewer said.
“It was mind-blowing that they were willing to do this for us. It was just overwhelming, honestly,” she said.
The boxes — more than 50, in the end — arrived in Old Crow just before the Easter weekend. There were tubs of formula, boxes of wipes, bags of diapers, along with all sorts of other things, such as pacifiers, thermometers for each mom and baby, spoons, bowls, and blankets.
Josie and her husband went to the airport and hauled all the boxes home.
“We piled them up in my living room and sorted them by each family who has children and what size diapers they need and things like that,” Josie said.
The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation loaned a vehicle to make the deliveries to families around town. It may have been Eastertime, but Josie said she felt like Santa Claus.
“They’re like, ‘really this is for me?’ And I’m like, ‘yeah, I got another trip — I’ve got a couple more boxes to bring in,’ and they’re like, ‘there is more?!’ They were just so grateful,” Josie recalled.
“My phone started filling up with pictures of the kids going through the boxes because there were some extra little surprises, some toys in there and some clothes — so the kids were really pretty excited.”
Josie said she couldn’t believe the generosity of Yukoners.
“It was so much more than I ever imagined would happen,” she said.
Fewer says the project was a win for everybody involved — including her. She said she struggles with PTSD and anxiety, and this has been a tough time for her.
“Going through this whole COVID thing, I needed something to kind of focus my energy on,” she said.
“I’m not sure what the right word is, to be honest … for how I feel about this. But it’s just… it’s been healing, it’s been incredible, it’s been heartwarming, it’s been awesome.”