Christ­mas stock­ing drive aims to bring cheer to the home­less

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Va­lerie Hill, Record staff

KITCH­ENER — In the seven years since StuffIn Stock­ings first be­gan col­lect­ing Christ­mas stock­ing items for kids in need, the vol­un­teer-run or­ga­ni­za­tion has grown. And grown.

Af­ter pre­vi­ously in­clud­ing teens, adults liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties and se­niors to its list of re­cip­i­ents, this year StuffIn Stock­ings added the home­less and dis­en­fran­chised cit­i­zens of the com­mu­nity.

“It’s pretty chal­leng­ing, Christ­mas, a de­press­ing time of year,” said Michelle Stein­gart of Sanguen Health Cen­tre, the new­est re­cip­i­ent of Christ­mas stock­ings for its clients.

Stein­gart is the ad­min­is­tra­tor for Sanguen, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports peo­ple liv­ing with and at risk of con­tract­ing Hep­ati­tis C among other ill­nesses.

Some of Sanguen’s aid is de­liv­ered from its trav­el­ling van, which sets up in Kitch­ener, Water­loo, Guelph and Cam­bridge once a week to of­fer clients health care, among other ser­vices.

Van staff dis­trib­ute snacks, drinks, cloth­ing and hy­giene prod­ucts as well as giv­ing re­fer­rals to com­mu­nity agen­cies and sup­ports.

They pro­vide tests for Hep­ati­tis A, B, C and HIV and some sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, and also of­fer preg­nancy test­ing, nurs­ing ser­vices, harm re­duc­tion sup­plies, and nalox­one kits and over­dose preven­tion train­ing.

“We started two years ago and saw nine peo­ple the first time,” said Stein­gart. “Now we av­er­age at each stop 150 to 200 peo­ple. “It has ex­ploded. It’s been phe­nom­e­nal.” Sanguen also tried to make Christ­mas a bit spe­cial for its clients by giv­ing hot choco­late, a few treats and warm cloth­ing, but pro­vid­ing stock­ings full of good­ies wasn’t pos­si­ble. At least not un­til StuffIn Stock­ings came along.

Last year, StuffIn Stock­ings dis­trib­uted 2,100 stock­ings through 20 char­i­ties in Water­loo Re­gion, in­clud­ing the Sal­va­tion Army, Fam­ily & Chil­dren’s Ser­vices, Luther­wood and In­de­pen­dent Liv­ing. Sanguen, a reg­is­tered char­ity, is the new­est ad­di­tion to the grow­ing list.

Carolyn Parks is the founder and chair of StuffIn Stock­ings, a sea­sonal pro­gram that is now un­der the um­brella of the St. Ja­cobs Li­ons Club. Parks had asked Stein­gart, one of StuffIn Stock­ings’ vol­un­teers whether Sanguen could use a few stock­ings for it clients this year.

Parks said that adding Sanguen to its ros­ter was a nat­u­ral fit “since we pro­vide stock­ings to so many types of peo­ple.”

No in­di­vid­ual should go with­out on any day, she said, adding that “home­less in­di­vid­u­als cer­tainly need ba­sic es­sen­tials such as win­ter wear and hy­giene items, along with treats.”

Stein­gart said the stock­ings will bring a smile to those clients who oth­er­wise face a bleak hol­i­day sea­son.

Christ­mas is a time “when ev­ery­one is sup­posed to be with fam­ily, warm and cosy,” she said. “The re­al­ity is it’s just not the case.”

Last year, in a stu­dent-run ini­tia­tive, four classes at JW Gerth Pub­lic School in Kitch­ener made Christ­mas cards and a few treats for Sanguen’s clients.

“There were cook­ies and choco­late. It was re­ally sweet,” said Stein­gart.

Sanguen’s clien­tele is 75 per cent male, aged 25 to 35. There are a small num­ber of fam­i­lies and a few new Cana­di­ans.

Sanguen plans to dis­trib­ute the stock­ings later this month and even if there are not enough for ev­ery client, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will make sure ev­ery­one re­ceives a small gift.

“I re­quested 50 (stock­ings),” she said. “We could use 300.”

“It’s over­whelm­ing this time of year.”

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