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Operation: Underpants gives fresh yuletide dignity to Cowichan's needy

Operation: Underwear, newly launched by Maeve Maguire (second right) to help local needy folks, gained 542 pairs of underwear and other more, donated by Cycle Therapy’s Sandra Beggs (right) and Wendy Bowen of Startline Physiotherapy. It’s being distributed by social worker Chuck McCandless (centre) during Meals On The Ground at Cowichan Green Communities. Helpers included CGC’s Amanda Reimer (left) and Judy Stafford. - Peter W. Rusland
Operation: Underwear, newly launched by Maeve Maguire (second right) to help local needy folks, gained 542 pairs of underwear and other more, donated by Cycle Therapy’s Sandra Beggs (right) and Wendy Bowen of Startline Physiotherapy. It’s being distributed by social worker Chuck McCandless (centre) during Meals On The Ground at Cowichan Green Communities. Helpers included CGC’s Amanda Reimer (left) and Judy Stafford.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Generous Cowichanians are giving needy folks a leg up with Operation: Underpants.

O.U. originator Maeve Maguire was stoked after hearing her goal of collecting 100 packs of undies was reached just before Christmas.

“That’s awesome and exciting; really cool,” she said after her and her friends counted 140 packs, plus other small items, at downtown’s Cowichan Green Community headquarters at the Phoenix inn.

The take of 542 pairs of undies, collected in just more than two weeks, also included a toothbrush, 71 pairs of socks, a scarf, six pairs of longjohns, and seven packs of Maxipads, plus $10.

It’s all being handed to the local less-fortunate through Warmland House’s transition apartments and shelter, Child and Family Services, and during Meals On The Ground centred at CGC.

“I started after talking with (social worker) Chuck McCandless who was telling me about Meals On The Ground,” Maguire said of the drive serving hot food to homeless people thrice weekly.

“I said, ‘What do you need?’ and Chuck said, ‘We get second-hand coats mitts, and toques, but we don’t get new underwear.’ I wanted to do something for Christmas and thought ‘Let’s do Operation: Underpants.’”

So Maguire mounted a Facebook event Dec. 10 and reached all her friends.

Then CGC joined in through manager Judy Stafford.

“Judy said she’d put a drop box in CGC. Sandra Beggs came on board at Cycle Therapy, and Wendy Bowen joined in at Startline Physiotherapy after they heard about it and began collecting stuff.

“Sandra said last year she saw people without socks.”

It helped folks were already in the giving spirit.

“People were shopping and already buying underwear for stockings, so it’s not out of the way,” said Maguire.

“The first step of dignity is putting on fresh underwear every morning.”

She got back to McCandless, who’d heard SunFM’s news about the outpouring of underpants.

“This is totally unbelievable,” he said. “Underwear’s always something no one gives, and Operation: Underpants is so catchy; Maeve just jumped on it.”

He and Maguire are planning an earlier O.U. start next year, and will maybe talk with big store brass who could hold an underpants sale.

For more, call McCandless through Warmland House, 250-715-1132.

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