The Shelbourne Street Church of Christ hopes to give the gift of giving.
The Saanich church is helping the homeless and less fortunate tell their personal stories and receive gifts on Christmas by joining forces with the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List Program.
“It puts a face on each person, it tells a story for each person,” said Minister Travis Hutchinson. “It lets them be recognized as people more than just a problem to be solved they are a person to be loved. That is the root of what Homeless Partners is about, that is why I think it is so important.”
Recipients for the gifts are found through the Cool Aid’s Sandy Merriman House, Next Steps Transitional Shelter and Rock Bay Landing, where each person is interviewed to give them an opportunity to tell their story – if they so choose – and offer a short list of items they would like for themselves or loved ones.
Gifts range from equipment to help them get them started on getting a job, clothing to keep them warm over the winter to gifts for their children. Gift requests and stories are posted at homelesspartners.com. This is the fourth year the Shelbourne Street church has partnered with the non-profit Homeless Partners.
“A lot of time in fixing the problem, we tend to lose sight of the person. It is about the person not the issue of poverty,” continued Hutchinson, who recently relocated from Colorado. “People are complex and valuable, and sometimes, especially when people are homeless, we lose sight of that.”
In 2011, the church interviewed 117 people and 115 received one or more of the gifts on their list. This year they expect a similar number of potential recipients, but this time they hope every single one will have at least one wish fulfilled before the Dec. 22 deadline.
A support worker at Rock Bay Landing and Street Link for more than nine years, Cindy Cox has seen the benefits of the program first hand, and said it makes a difference in peoples’ lives.
“I see it as a huge benefit. The folks are appreciative and they are excited,” she said. “For some of the people it could be the only gift they receive the whole Christmas season. It is heartwarming to know people are thinking about them.”
Cox said many of the gifts aren’t even for the homeless person themselves, and are passed on to their friends, partners and children.
“I was quite moved by it all, it is nice to see the love and empathy,” she said. “It is great (donors) care enough to take time out of their busy Christmas to think of folks that are less fortunate. It is touching and nice to see.”
Gifts or donations are accepted at the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ on 3460 Shelbourne St. or at Rock Bay Landing at 535 Ellice St. through Dec. 22. Gifts are distributed to the appropriate recipients Christmas eve or Christmas day.
For more information visit homelesspartners.com. Click on “Read a story and give a gift” and select Victoria.