This Christmas, Lisa Mingay and her family decided to try something different. Instead of exchanging gifts, her mother challenged her to take part in an act of kindness to help a stranger.
At first, she hoped to hand out 10 blankets to the homeless. But when she began posting on Facebook asking for donations, the outpouring of interest prompted her to go further.
So in the lead-up to Christmas Eve, she decided to put together a Facebook event to see who would be up for handing out blankets, scarves and other items for the homeless in the College Park area on Dec. 24.
In the end, she and five other women distributed more than 50 blankets and 80 pairs of socks, as well as dozens of other items, including mittens, hats, sweaters and jackets.
The packages read “Keep warm and know that you are important,” and were wrapped in saran wrap to protect from the snow. Each item was donated by Mingay’s friends and neighbours.
While there was a limited number of people around the park to receive them, Mingay said she was satisfied knowing people passing through later on would be sure to find the remaining packages left in the area.
“That good feeling I’ve had the past few weeks, it’s really amplified for me the whole meaning of Christmas,” she said. “I like that, I want to do it again.”
For Nicole Byng, one the of the volunteers, the act held a more personal meaning. She was homeless herself for six years and knows what it’s like to feel “completely disassociated” from the rest of society on Christmas.
“I really just wanted to give back,” she told the Star.
Acknowledging homeless people’s existence and their desire to take part in celebrating even if they can’t contribute themselves is key for anyone looking to give a hand to those experiencing homelessness during the holidays, she said.
“I had burned all of my family bridges and wasn’t invited anymore at Christmas,” she said. “It was really difficult seeing all these people running around spending all this money on their Christmas presents, going to these family events. . . . I wasn’t going home to a family, and I didn’t have a warm place at the end of the day.”
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