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Coldest Night of The Year 2015 for Hope Mission

Food is my passion.  I didn’t always have this passion, my palate was very un-educated until I started dating someone that showed me the finer things in life.

I grew up in a family of five.  I was lucky we always had food on the table.  I know my parents struggled sometimes.  I can’t even imagine the fear of not knowing where your next meal is coming from and whether or not you are going to be able to feed your children.

When I was in high school, I was very passionate about helping.  I wanted to grow up to be a Social Worker someday.  Thankfully my guidance counselor, Mr. Prosk, was blunt and honest.  He begged me not to go ahead with that career path.  He said that I was too soft-hearted and would end up bringing stray people home all of the time, burning out in a very short time.

I never sat on any boards for any of the charities that I volunteered for.  I wanted to just be in the front lines helping people.  I was recognized a couple of times for my efforts (YR Radio Citizen of the Month) and had some nice pieces of paper to put in my keepsake book.

When I moved to the big city, things were a LOT different.  There was a lot more poverty and it was in your face.  I did some retail management for about five years with a convenience store chain.  I wasn’t one that could turn people that were honestly down on their luck away.  There was one gentleman that will always stay in my memory.

The first time he came in, I didn’t know what to think of him.  This was back in the day of paper matches.  He had ice caked in his beard and snot-sicles hanging from his nose.  He was dirty and muttering to himself.  All he wanted was some matches so he could light his cigarette that he had hand-made from collecting butts and putting them all together to make a rollie for himself.  I gave him the matches and smiled at him, and he peacefully went on his way.

This became a daily routine.  He would shuffle in during my shift and get his matches.  Sometimes I would offer him a coffee if there weren’t a lot of customers in the store.  Sometimes I would save him an out-dated sandwich.  We had a little system going.  I would leave the matches for him on the lip of the front counter, so if I was busy with a customer he could still light his butt.

After a month or two of this routine, I was wiping down counters when I noticed that my friend had left something shiny in place of the package of matches.  It was a single earring that he had found in his travels.  It really touched me that he had gone through all of that effort.  From that point on, I would quite often find a shiny treasure that he had found for me.

He didn’t really speak much, just muttered a lot.  When I transferred to another store, the staff still adopted him and took care of him after I left.  Sometimes when I am downtown, I will recognize him passing by.  One of the staff at the store had heard a rumour that he was a Professor and he had been diagnosed with a mental illness.  It sounds like that was the start of a downward spiral for him.

This fellow is one of the many people that I was able to meet in the downtown area.  Some of them are suffering from substance abuse.  Those folks are really sad cases.  I am happy to give food if I have it, but I learned the hard way to not give them money; it just gets spent at the liquor store next door.

I volunteered at the food bank for a year or so.  That was also an eye-opening experience.  There isn’t a lot of fresh anything if you need to depend on the food bank.  Diapers, tampons, shampoo, toilet paper – things that you NEED were in short supply.  It broke my heart when we didn’t have whatever the special request was for the box we were packing.

I have hit a couple of rough patches in my lifetime where I was unemployed and the cupboard was starting to get bare.  When you have seen this kind of poverty, it can be scary to even consider that you could be  “one pay-cheque” away from being on the street.

The Edmonton homeless count is just going up.  People flock here to Alberta because our streets are “paved with gold”.  They have no idea what the cost of living is here, don’t bring enough money, can’t find a place to live, can’t get support from our government because they are from out of province…. There are so many people looking for work that end up in the shelters. So many reasons they end up in the shelters…

Hope Mission helps.

They provide food and a warm place to sleep.  It isn’t glamorous.  They offer to help people that want to help themselves.  They have programs for the children, the youth and for people to transition from the shelter into their own places.  They do a lot of good things for the hurting and the homeless here in Edmonton.

I wish I could dedicate more hours to them but unfortunately my work hours don’t fit around the soup kitchen, I don’t get off work early enough.  I figured the least I could do is try to get some fundraising done through “Coldest Night of the Year”.

Coldest Night of the Year 2015

Last year I got some friends together and we walked the 5k. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with some really wonderful people, but it was also an eye opener. These folks that don’t have a place to go are walking many kilometers per day. Often it is in weather conditions that none of us could even imagine being out in. You are reminded of this when your muscles start to cramp up because of the cold and the effort. We were bundled up in good clothes. We had the opportunity to have hot chocolate and go inside at the half-way point but we declined. Walk a mile in their shoes…

This year I am the Team Captain for “Halloweenies for Hope” and we are walking the 10k.  You can help!

Join me or if you have a few extra dollars you could spare, please donate! It doesn’t take much money to make sure that someone has food in their belly and can survive to fight another day.  Give someone hope!

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience.

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