While going through a divorce to leave her abusive husband, a Penticton woman found solace during a holiday season that otherwise would have been lonely through the South Okanagan Women In Need Society Share The Spirit program.
“I was going to court, had to do affidavits nightly and it was the highest stress point in my life,” said the woman who preferred her name not be used. “I still get choked up about it because it was a miracle that I found SOWINS and Share The Spirit.”
Though Christmas comes just once a year, for SOWINS it comes early. As of late October, SOWINS started gathering gifts and food for this year’s Share the Spirit clients. The hampers provide gifts and food for women and children to ensure they have a merry Christmas.
“At the time, I had to apply for hardship because my ex took everything. I was alone in the house with nothing but the bare essentials and a lot of the ladies and kids that SOWINS helps are like that,” said the woman. “We have no idea what to do when we come in. We are lost, scared and have no income.”
But the gesture of a hamper filled with gift certificates for food and simple things such as personal hygiene items and gifts for her dogs helped relieve a feeling of hopelessness for the woman. It is why she is now returning that kindness, volunteering with SOWINS and Share The Spirit.
“I cried and cried and my heart was filled with such joy because there is such beautiful people that care and go the extra mile,” she said, recalling the day she got her hamper. “For the size of our city, we have the most generosity. That is what Christmas is all about, the pay it forward and that is what I am doing right now and will as long as I can.”
Last year, approximately 100 women and their children benefitted from the generosity of the community through the campaign. Businesses, organizations, schools, workplace staff and individuals are invited to take the hamper challenge. When a woman is in need, with or without children, she submits an anonymous wish list. The list is matched with an anonymous donor and the filled hamper is delivered to a drop-off point then delivered to the woman or family by SOWINS volunteers.
“It is just amazing to see when the hampers are picked up and the kids are so surprised, gasping and saying ‘Is that for me?’ Each of the families get to write on a card anonymously to thank their sponsors. A lot will write a book in there of thanks, some don’t even have the words to say except thank you because they are so overwhelmed,” said the woman.
To ensure each hamper is full, SOWINS suggests $60 worth of groceries for a single woman and $125 for a mother with two children. They welcome new unwrapped gifts, non-perishable food items, personal care products, local retail gift certificates and monetary donations. Gift certificates for teens are especially appreciated.
Individual donations are also encouraged. These items will be combined into hampers or may be used as gifts for the SOWINS kids Christmas party, or as gifts for women and their children staying at the emergency transition house over the holidays. Individual donations and monetary contributions can be dropped off until Dec. 7 at the SOWINS offices at 218-246 Martin St. or WINGS Thrift Store at 456 Main St.
To sponsor a hamper for a family or single woman contact Liz Gomes at 250-493-4366 ext. 102 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Instructions on how to sponsor a hamper are also available at www.sowins.com. Anyone wanting to volunteer to help with Share The Spirit can contact Bethany at 250-493-4366 ext. 105 or email@example.com.