Giving Winnipeg’s homeless Bear necessities
Volunteer patrol collects donations for annual Christmas drive
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As Angela Klassen looks through her closet to see what can be donated to the Bear Clan Patrol’s annual Christmas drive, she knows what it means to be on the receiving end.
“I was homeless myself for a bit, and I understand how important it is,” said Klassen, the Winnipeg volunteer patrol’s West Broadway co-ordinator. “As a community, we need to take care of each other.”
One simple act of kindness can change a person’s life, Klassen added.
“I’ve handed people a jacket and they’ve cried because they’re that grateful… (It can) change their lives to where they’re wanting to live again.”
Bear Clan is asking for Winnipeggers’ support in its third annual Christmas donation drive, which runs until Saturday.
Warm winter jackets are in the greatest demand, but the organization is also seeking boots, toques, mitts, gloves, scarves, socks, sleeping bags, blankets, underwear, travel-sized toiletries, bottled water and individually wrapped snack items.
Items can be dropped off at Ron Paul Garden Centre.
It’s important to donate because the homeless community can live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the winter cold, Klassen said.
“If you’re not dressed appropriately… you’re going to freeze to death,” she said. “We’re grateful for any donations that we get, and we couldn’t do the work that we do without the support of our community.”
Kevin Walker, Bear Clan executive director, agreed.
“A lot of us complain about how cold it is to go outside when our car’s been running for half-an-hour… The Bear Clan is dealing with a lot of the city’s most vulnerable people that don’t even have shoes in the wintertime,” he said, adding he wishes the public could see the reactions when handing out donations.
“You know, it can be pretty moving at times… It would probably drive a lot more people to donate,” he said. “When we’re able to hand out boots or mitts or gloves or anything, anything to keep somebody warm or to keep somebody alive in some cases, the reaction from them is very heartwarming.”
Rachel Moore is organizing this year’s Purses of Hope campaign: female care packages, which are donated to Bear Clan’s annual drive.
The initiative is to help empower women and make them feel special during the holidays, Moore said.
Each purse contains a scarf, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, pads and tampons, and some have makeup or jewelry.
“The point is to try to make sure that we could give them the most necessities possible,” Moore said.
She said it’s all thanks to community support (and last year’s organizer, Vicki Gower).
Purses of Hope donated 72 care packages to Bear Clan this year.
“When her and I brought those purses in, we were teary-eyed,” Moore said.
“I feel there’s so many people in a position that can give but they don’t because maybe they don’t know where to give,” Moore said. “If you have the ability to give, reach out to these organizations and just ask them what they need.”
Members from each Bear Clan chapter — North End, Elmwood and West Broadway — will be together, driving around Christmas Day delivering the donations to those living in encampments and even bus shelters.
“We’re all at home usually sitting with our families on Christmas Day… But us Bear Clan, that’s what we do on Christmas morning, and it’s the best feeling ever,” Klassen said.
“We’ll hit all of the camps that we know of.”