‘tis the season for giving

Local charitable groups are hoping that between the latté fueled shopping sprees and the glittery Christmas parties that we take the time to give a little back.

The UWSA is collecting non-perishable food items for the holidays at the CAW Student Centre's info desk · photo Stephen Hargreaves The UWSA is collecting non-perishable food items for the holidays at the CAW Student Centre's info desk · photo Stephen Hargreaves

Irena Sziler
LANCE WRITER

Local charitable groups are hoping that between the latté fueled shopping sprees and the glittery Christmas parties that we take the time to give a little back.

Organizations such as the Downtown Mission, which offers mainly food, shelter and clothing to those in need, highlight the holiday spirit with their intentions to help the poor in Windsor-Essex.

According to Statistics Canada, an estimated one in seven Canadians lives in poverty as of 2010 and 1.5 million of them cannot afford necessary and appropriate shelter. When it narrows down to Windsor, 38,000 people, including 16,000 are youth and children, are living in poverty.

“We provide hope, and with food comes hope,” said Ron Dunn, the Downtown Mission’s director of development and community relations.

The organization’s mission is to supply food for the body, shelter for the homeless and opportunity for human growth and development, according to Dunn.

This particular time of year is known to have a hike in the number of people accessing the mission’s services. The non-profit is already expecting larger crowds to attend their hot lunch days this coming festive season, increasing the mission’s need for supplies.

Adam Vasey, director of Pathway to Potential, indicated that charitable efforts help alleviate poverty, but added that organizations need goods and clothing year-round. “This is not something to think of once a year, but to constantly keep at the top of your mind.”

Pathway to Potential tackles poverty by identifying and removing barriers to resources. They advocate to all levels of government and recently ran a campaign called Reality Check to debunk myths about poverty.

“People think poverty is the result of a poor choice or personal flaws,” said Vasey. “We’re using evidence and research to show that it’s not something that people choose, but that it can happen to anyone.”

The University of Windsor campus is getting into the holiday spirit of giving as well.

The University of Windsor Students’ Alliance launched a donation drive last Wednesday to collect non-perishable foods to be donated to the Downtown Mission. “The food drive is an annual initiative by the UWSA to help people in Windsor who don’t have the funds for proper meals for this holiday season,” said Josh Paglione, director of student life.

The UWSA will be collecting food items at the info desk in the CAW Student Centre until Dec.18.

The school’s Iona College on Sunset Avenue also provides a student-run North Campus Food Bank. Patrick Rose, the food bank’s co-ordinator, said over the last few years the food bank has seen increased use from about 80 students to 135 per year. Rose sees a high use among international students, who often stay on campus over the holidays.

The food bank is a bit removed from campus, which allows for some discretion. “It’s a double-edged sword though, because I’m constantly educating students about our presence on campus.”

Iona College also serves $3 student dinners Mondays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The university’s Womyn’s Centre just concluded a clothing and toiletries drive, organized by Bianca Buonuito. “We split the donations between Blue House (Drop-in for Women) and the Well-Come Centre,” said Laurie Lyndes, Womyn’s Centre assistant co-ordinator. “We had a ton of toiletries for the visitors at both of those centers … we were able to provide lots of personal items and clothing.”

The Womyn’s Centre intends to host a second drive in February to prepare people for the summer.

The Downtown Mission in particular is normally low on food items such as protein and beverages such as juice. “If you asked for canned ham I couldn’t give it to you,” said Dunn, highlighting the need for supplies.

There are currently 150 active volunteers taking part in the organization. The Downtown Mission receives no government funding and relies mostly on the generosity of others such as the greater Essex County and Windsor communities.

To donate to the Downtown Mission, view a list of the basic staples that are needed at downtownmission.com/food-bank.

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