KAMLOOPS – A Kamloops community organization is hoping to reach out and help more people this Christmas.
New Life Community Kamloops, previously called the New Life Mission, wants to focus on the social aspect of the holiday season says executive director Stan Dueck. Christmas dinner is still planned for the Dec. 24 but Dueck says the big change, starting last season, was just being open.
“We opened up late Christmas Eve this last year. All day Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and we certainly plan on doing that again this year because… it just gives people a place to go, to socialize,” he says, adding he was told by clients they really appreciated not having to spend the holidays alone.
As holidays can be a stressful time for people without home or family, outreach manager Regan Wilson says New Life runs ‘marathon’ support meetings for those who feel the need to use.
Roughly two years ago, New Life was struggling financially. Dueck says the centre was always "on its last dollar" and tough decisions needed to be made in order to stay open.
“Once we could clean that up a little bit and working back in the black side, we saw a real need to start again – that revision, that refocus. What are we, what do we want to be?” he says.
Dueck says New Life wanted to be open to more people for more hours and now operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. On top of this, the services the centre offers have dramatically increased.
Currently, New Life has a medical clinic with the services of a nurse practitioner, a dental clinic and denture maker. Most recently they have added a hair salon and a computer refurbishing workshop, which serves as both skills training and a source of revenue.
“All this kind of stuff, people come in here and they had no idea until we show them around,” Dueck says.
Dueck believes the social aspects of the mission are more important than almost anything else they do, including Domino's holding pizza nights on Mondays or the Alliance Church holding regular coffee and desert nights.
Wilson says any group, club or even individual volunteers who would like to host an evening social event are encouraged to do so. New Life usually closes by 6 p.m. and most shelters require anyone staying the night to arrive before 9 p.m., so to give clients a place to go for those few hours would be ideal, he says.
“We’ve had one movie night. We’re talking about more movie nights especially as it gets cold. We’re definitely looking at more social events that people can just come and be a part of something,” Wilson says, adding New Life is open to card or bingo nights, or really anything that could bring people together.
“It takes time, it takes volunteers,” Dueck says of offering programs. “We just want to be open and available to serve this community.”
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