Vernon project raising Christmas spirit for seniors on the poverty line - InfoNews

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Vernon project raising Christmas spirit for seniors on the poverty line

Lee Brinkman, senior services coordinator with Nexus B.C.
December 25, 2016 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Grace, 87, is barely making ends meet and would love a gift card for groceries so she can buy a couple extras this Christmas. Cowboy George, 63, would like a pair of cowboy boots, size 13, so he can get back in the saddle. Roswita, 74, is asking for an affordable place to rent, preferably with a bathtub and a wood stove to help with her arthritis.

The names aren’t real, but the stories are. They are three of close to 20 seniors featured as part of an initiative by Nexus B.C. called Making Spirits Bright. As part of the project, community members can pledge to purchase a gift for a local senior, coordinator Lee Brinkman says.

“It’s more than just about the gift, it’s reaching out and letting them know people in this community care and want to help,” Brinkman says, adding gift-givers are encouraged to include a personal note along with the gift.

Many of the seniors will be spending Christmas by themselves this year — either because they have no living relatives, have lost touch with family or can’t afford to visit them — so the project is designed to make them feel a little less alone. 

Nexus B.C. assists seniors 60 and older in the community who need help finding affordable housing, getting transportation, or applying for rent subsidies, among many other needs.

“A lot of them are a pay check away from being homeless,” Brinkman says.

On an old age pension of roughly $1,500 a month, a senior would spend most of it on housing, followed by things like transportation, glasses and dentures (which aren’t covered by health care) and food.

Many of the seniors are simply asking for gift cards to the grocery store for Christmas.

“They are living on the absolute basics,” Brinkman says.

Most of the gifts have already been pledged, and Brinkman says the community has really embraced the project.

“People are so excited. It’s become their Christmas cause,” she says.

Nexus B.C. will ensure the dropped off gifts make it to the seniors, and staff will give food hampers to anyone with an un-pledged gift so no one is left out.

“The seniors are all very thankful, but a lot of them are reluctant to ask for anything. Many have said to me that they are usually the ones to help others and now they’re having to ask for help themselves and that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Brinkman says.

New seniors will be added to the list until Dec. 9. If you know someone who should be on the list, ask them to call the Seniors Services office at NexusBC at 250-545-0585.

You can read the stories and make a pledge here.

— This story wad updated at 4 p.m. Nov. 29, 2016 to correct spelling. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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