Yes In My Back Yard

  

As we get closer to the holidays, hamper drives, toy collections, and cold weather clothing donations are on the public radar. But the rest of the year, though the need remains, donations subside, until the holidays come again.

That’s why year-round gestures can make such a difference. Starting a spring or summer food drive, making monthly donations to a food bank or shelter, donating clothing and other wishlist items to places like Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter – these are a few of the ways that can help people stay healthier and safer throughout the year.

Day-to-day gestures matter too, like Nelson the Seagull‘s suspended coffee program. Not only do they get food or a hot drink into the hands of someone who would otherwise go without, but it also keeps year-long needs in the public consciousness. And it benefits people who are often shut out of participation, or even acknowledgement, in the neighbourhoods where they live. The opportunity to be seen as a customer instead of a problem is no small thing. It opens the door to conversation and comfort, in place of isolation.

Today, while meeting a friend for coffee on Commercial Drive, I noticed that Renzo’s Coffee was participating in a pay-it-forward project created by four students through the City Studio program. Yimby Vancouver is a week-long experiment in paying it forward at four Commercial Drive cafés.

  
It’s not just about coffee, either. You can pay for any menu item, have it noted on one of Yimby’s cards, and pin it up on the board outside the café. Then, someone in need can turn the card in at the register.

I’d love to see this become a permanent program at businesses on the Drive and throughout the city. For now, you can participate until November 28th at Renzo’s, Eternal Abundance, Café du Soleil, and Babylon Café.

‘Tis The Season

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We’re entering the countdown to Christmas now, with a week to go. There’s still time, though, to do a little good while you’re finishing up your holiday preparations. I was thinking about this last weekend, when I attended the Vancouver Giants‘ Teddy Bear Toss night. As you can see, the Giants’ first goal caused a shower of generosity in the form of stuffed animals – more than 10,000 fans threw several hundred of them onto the ice. The toss benefits the Vancouver Province newspaper’s Empty Stocking Fund, the CKNW Orphans’ Fund, and the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau. It was a feel good event, with stuffed animals flying through the air, a shutout win against one of the Giants’ toughest rivals, and a sense of giving back to the community permeating the happy, friendly crowd .

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However, there’s always more to be done and here are a few organizations that could use your help:

Lookout Emergency Aid Society provides low-barrier services to the homeless and other people in need. They’re accepting cash donations, but are also accepting warm winter clothing, blankets, and gift items for distribution.

RainCity Housing provides low-barrier outreach, shelter, and housing for Vancouverites in need and you can contribute cash or much-needed items for distribution.

Check out the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre wishlist for things that are always in short supply for their clients.

A donation to Family Services of Greater Vancouver will go toward Christmas hampers for families in need or will help fund their programs throughout the rest of the year.

The Kettle, which does great work in my own neighbourhood, has partnered with Harbour Centre for a donation drive that runs until December 20th.

A Loving Spoonful provides nutritious meals for people with HIV/AIDS throughout the year. Donate to them directly, or support them by attending the All-Star RnB Christmas.

Buying your Christmas tree can be an act of giving, too – Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots raise funds to support foster kids and teen moms.

Finally, if it’s your time you’d like to donate, HuffPo has compiled a list of Christmas volunteer opportunities.

Wherever you live and however you choose to celebrate the holidays and the turning of the year, I hope that it’s a time of peace and abundance for everyone in your community.

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