VERNON - The communities of Vernon and Salmon Arm are spreading kindness this holiday season where it’s needed most.
Non-profit agencies in both cities are participating in the Homeless Partners project, essentially a Christmas wish list for those who may not be expecting any gifts this time of year.
Kari Bomstad with the John Howard Society of the North Okanagan is arranging the project in Vernon and says it can be quite emotional. She works with homeless individuals in camps and shelters throughout the year and says Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. A gift from a stranger can make a world of difference.
“If you’re in the position where you’re already feeling isolated, lonely… to know that the community cares is really, really huge I would say,” she says.
As part of the initiative, which has been running for the past few Christmases in Vernon, clients at the city’s two shelters, Howard House and Gateway, fill out applications that ask where they’re from, where they’ve worked, what their hopes and dreams are and what they might like for Christmas. The stories and wish lists are then posted online where community members can pledge to get the gift.
The names are made up for confidentiality reasons, but the stories are so real it can hurt to read them. “Dion” is a 46-year-old from Prince George who was molested as a child. “Danica’s” dream is to build a modest log home and live in the bush. “Henry” first slept outside when he was 17 and says it was “cold and wet and I felt scared.” A backpack, sweater and running shoes are on his wish list.
“There was one elderly gentleman that put 'friends' as his only request,” Bomstad says.
Many of the items being asked for are simply necessities: socks, sweaters and thermal underwear.
“A lot of the stories of where our folks come from, are people just like you and I that have had a set of life circumstances or tragedy happen and here they are,” Bomstad says.
Pledged gifts can be dropped off during business hours at the North Okanagan Centre for Community Collaboration, #102 3301 24 Avenue in Vernon. The gifts will be given out to clients on Christmas Day. The society is also asking for donated turkeys for a holiday dinner.
“To be able to connect community members with people in our shelter has been really amazing,” Bomstad says. “To see peoples’ generosity this time of year just blows me away.”
For more information, contact Bomstad at 250-542-3555 or email@example.com. The Centre for Community Collaboration is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, closed for lunch, and open again from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In Salmon Arm, contact 250-833-6050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those are the only two cities in the Interior signed up for the initiative.
Click here to visit the Homeless Partners website and select a location.
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