Christmas has arrived early for the city’s most needy residents.
On Wednesday, volunteers from the Radiant Life Community Church were busy sorting hundreds of new coats, shirts, sweaters, pants and boots all donated by Campbell River’s Mark’s Work Wearhouse.
“We’ve got 50 boxes here and there’s another 40 coming!” says a joyous Sally van Holst. “Just look at these boots too! Someone is going to be very warm.”
One good donation begets another and all the clothing will be given to people who are homeless or are in need, says van Holst who has run the church for many years alongside her husband, Pastor Art van Holst.
As she and several others sort the clothing, Sally explains how Mark’s first donated a few boxes of clothing several years ago. Since then the donations have grown and Wednesday’s arrival was almost over-whelming.
“It’s everything we could have ever asked for…it’s such a blessing,” she says.
Sandi Shaw is the manager of Mark’s who spearheaded the donation. In the past, she says, unsold garment’s and last year’s fashions were donated to agencies outside the community.
But, she points out, the corporate decision-makers changed their minds and decided the clothing should stay in local communities. It’s a decision fully supported by Shaw and her staff.
“It feels really good to know someone is warm,” she says, as her voice chokes with emotion. “I think it’s great to help people in a community we love.”
The donation of boots and warm clothing couldn’t have come at a better time, as snow fell for the first time this season on Thursday.
“It’s amazing to see the community coming together and helping each other out. That’s what it’s all about,” says Sally.
The Radiant Life community is also managing operation of the city’s temporary extreme weather shelter.
It’s the modified steel container that sits next to the downtown fire hall. The simple, but functional, shelter sleeps 16 people in eight rooms equipped with bunk beds. It’s heated, has a toilet, and a small room for the attendant.
Radiant Life, through a contract with Campbell River Family Services, has hired five people to manage the low-barrier shelter. Four people operate on shifts to make sure the guests – roughly 8-9 most nights – are okay, and the fifth cleans and keeps things tidy.
Guests are provided with clean pyjamas every night.
They can eat breakfast and dinner across the road at Radiant Life, and enjoy lunch down the road at the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Centre where they can also wash up.
Pastor Art van Host says the community support has been amazing.
Sponsors are still needed to buy heating fuel. It costs $30 a night. To donate, call Radiant Life at 250-830-0190.