Christmas Day is a special time for most people, but not for those who are homeless and in need of help.
Headingley resident Ashley Meilleur decided to make an effort to give joy to Winnipeg’s needy on Christmas Day, and formed The Lending Hand Winnipeg. On Dec. 25, she and a few volunteers brought bins of donated clothing and hygiene items, as well as 450 gift cards, to a parking lot next to the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre on Main Street and distributed all but a few clothing items within 90 minutes.
"I had people lining up," Meilleur said.
She also gave out coffee, cookies and candy canes.
The Lending Hand project began last November after a lost phone brought Meilleur and a homeless woman together. She made a promise that the woman would have a warm meal on Christmas Day.
Meilleur then posted ads online asking others to donate gift items, gift cards, blankets, sleeping bags, coats, boots, socks, long underwear, and personal hygiene items to be given out as gifts to Winnipeg’s homeless people on Christmas Day.
"My spare bedroom was full of donations," she said.
After collecting about $4,500, she bought $10 gift cards for local grocery stores and wrapped them all.
"My fingers were sore," she laughed.
The 29-year-old said she usually contributes to a charity or volunteers during the holiday season in memory of one of her daughters, who died on Dec. 23 four years ago.
While Christmas 2013 is now a memory, Meilleur said she plans to continue working with other agencies that provide support for Winnipeg’s homeless.
"It’s not over yet," she vowed.
For more information on the Lending Hand Winnipeg, see www.facebook.com/wpglendinghands