Families in the North Okanagan and beyond are benefiting from a United Way initiative that’s bringing free car seats to those in need.
And with the cost of living sky high, the number of families in need of a free car seat is rising.
United Way was set up in the parking lot of the Vernon Canadian Tire Tuesday, where different partner agencies were picking up the car seats to then distribute to families.
United Way started doing the car seat giveaway in 2015, looking to address the fact that five per cent of children in B.C. — roughly 23,000 — don’t use an approved child car seat.
“This initiative is recognizing that our families need to balance the affordability of their homes and their household budget, and not always is a car seat affordable,” said Tracy Anderson, United Way community impact and investment coordinator for the North Okanagan.
This year 342 car seats were purchased through Canadian Tire for families in need, up from 320 seats last year.
“Every year, thankfully with the great donors that we have, we’ve been able to either maintain or to grow with that commitment,” said Anderson.
Agencies in communities throughout the North Okanagan and Shuswap — including Vernon, Sicamous, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Revelstoke and Golden — received the free car seats.
Anderson says United Way has heard feedback from many families who say they would not have been able to afford rent or groceries that month if they had to purchase a car seat out of pocket.
“It’s wonderful,” Anderson said. “It’s the best project we do.”
One in eight children — or 116,500 children — lived in poverty in B.C. in 2020, according to United Way, and many of them don’t have access to a proper car seat.
“We acknowledge how precious is your child’s life and safety. That’s why we’re profoundly grateful for all our partners who have been working with us on this initiative year after year,” Kim Winchell, United Way provincial director of community impact and investment, said.