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Understanding the Impact a Gift Can Make

Every Christmas, our Vancouver and Winnipeg Chapters participate in Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List to provide personal Christmas gifts for those experiencing poverty and homelessness in these cities. It’s a special program bringing Christmas joy both for the volunteers and for the clients served.

This Christmas the two chapters oversaw 560 gifts being provided for those in need.  In Winnipeg, volunteers interviewed 70 people, promoted the program and sorted gifts to clients of Siloam Mission, including those living in the Madison supportive housing building. A kind note of thanks explaining the impact of the program made it to our Winnipeg chapter who is eager to share the message with you.

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Thank you from Heather Karlenzig, Resident Relations Coordinator at The Madison

This year my favourite Christmas memories will be of December 24th, at The Madison where I work as the Resident Relations Coordinator.

Every year at Christmas, Siloam and the Winnipeg people are very generous and give gifts that we can give to each resident.  They are usually gift bags with socks, hats mitts, and a gift card or two, some candies etc.  They are very nice and our residents appreciate them.  We also have a dinner and different groups of people come and help us celebrate during the month of December.

This year HOPE worldwide of Canada came to us and offered to include us in a project they had done last year with the Siloam Mission Drop In and Shelter.  It is a chance for people to pledge a gift that someone has said they want for Christmas.

The people from HOPE have volunteers who came out to interview any of our residents who wanted to share a bit about themselves, and at the same time, tell them what they want for Christmas.  It is then posted online and anyone can look on the web page and pledge to purchase that item for that person.

I never realized how much more special it is to receive a gift that is something you have been wishing for, not something generic, that someone else picked for you. (although these are also appreciated!)

On December 24th the gifts had all arrived, and were piled up in my office. My supervisor, Brenda and I, were so fortunate to be able to have people come one or two at a time and open there gifts while we watched.  I will try and share with you some of the reactions we saw….

One gentleman had asked for long underwear and socks, he had also mentioned that he would like some bus tickets.  When he opened his gift and saw not one, but two pairs of long underwear, and two pairs of socks, he was so excited and pleased with how nice they were!  Then he opened the card and found a bus pass in it!  He couldn’t believe it! Someone had bought him even more than he asked for!  He kept saying, “look not one but two pairs, and a bus pass, can you believe it? Someone I don’t know did this for me??”

This type of reaction was seen over and over again.  One of our residents is a very large man with size 15 feet, he has a hard time finding shoes, and we rarely get donations in that size.  He had said that he would love a pair of boots.  When this big man, who is normally very in control of his emotions, began to tear up, it brought tears to our eyes as well.  I think his first words when he opened the box and saw size 15 Sorel boots where – “Oh my, #%@^#@%. I can’t believe it! Do you know how much these cost? I didn’t really think someone would buy these for me!”  He gave Brenda and I both hugs and left with his boots.

One of the ladies here had told the volunteers that she liked jewellery. She was so surprised! In that box, was a necklace with her name engraved on it!  She has an unusual name, so someone had this made for her!  She also received a ring with Grandma written on it, she is a very proud Grandmother, and lives to see her grandchildren a couple of times per year.  She began to cry, and so “Oh thank you! Oh thank you”  over and over again.  She was overwhelmed that someone would do this for her!

I will tell one more story….This gentleman had asked for only one thing, a brown wool sweater.  He thought that this would be a real luxury. He received not one but two wool sweaters, a brown one and a grey one, and wool socks, and a wool scarf!  He was so grateful and happy, he couldn’t’ stop laughing!

Next year I am hoping that more people will be interviewed and therefore more people will receive a gift that they have longed for.  Thank you HOPE worldwide of Canada for giving me the best Christmas ever!!!

Heather Karlenzig

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