Program spreads holiday cheer

SOWINIS collecting donations for Christmas hampers for women in need

Counsellor Liz Gomes (right) of the South Okanagan Women in Need Society and volunteer Megan Warltier work on some of the hampers that will be distributed to families and single women starting next week.

The stress and anxiety of not being able to provide Christmas to her family has been relieved for one Penticton woman, thanks to the Share the Spirit Christmas Hamper program.

The woman, who preferred her name not be used to protect her children, said she was a victim of the recession after being let go from her longtime job as well as facing health issues. Without a hamper, her kids wouldn’t have had the same holiday experience that so many get.

“This really means a lot. I feel we are blessed to be given such a wonderful gift. We have faced a lot of adversity and loss and this really reinforces my hope and gives me the courage to keep one foot in front of the other no matter what life throws in front of us. The community is really sharing the true spirit of the holiday with loving, kindness and in a non-judgmental way”

The program is put together by the South Okanagan Women In Need Society with the help of donations from the community and sponsors.

“Thanks goes to SOWINS who has been there for me when I was down at my worst. They were there to hold my hand and let me cry on their shoulder. They were there for my children and I can’t thank them enough. I am grateful for the support systems in our community and showing me that no matter what happens, people have love and kindness in their hearts to help people in need like myself,” said the mother of three.

SOWINS is still looking for donors and sponsors to participate in their eighth annual Share the Spirit Christmas Hamper program.

“This program provides a much-needed Christmas hamper to women and children who have used the services of SOWINS in 2011,” said Liz Gomes, children who witness abuse counsellor. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to help make a real difference in the lives of those who have been affected by abuse and who struggle financially.”

Last year the program delivered 100 hampers to local families and single senior women.

“It has been a little bit slower this year so far with donations and sponsors coming forward to help,” said Gomes. “We have several families and single senior women that we are still looking to match up with sponsors or donors. Usually single senior women are those that get left out. People want to sponsor moms with children, so the seniors are a little bit more difficult to match up.”

A Christmas list created by that family or senior will be sent to the sponsor as well as other relevant information. The sponsor is asked to provide two gifts per family member based on this wish list. They are also asked to provide food or grocery gift cards to help feed the family for about one week.

Single-item donations are also accepted to the Share the Spirit Christmas Hamper program. Community members can donate non-perishable food, new unwrapped gifts, personal care products, gift cards or cash donations. These donations are used to create hampers, provide gifts at SOWINS children’s Christmas party and gifts for women and children staying at the Penticton Transition House during Christmas.

“Imagine having to spend Christmas in a shelter because it is no longer safe to stay at home, and imagine how uplifting it would feel to receive a gift during this most difficult time,” said Gomes.

For more information on sponsoring or donating to the hamper program, contact Gomes at 250-493-4366 ext. 102 or drop off donations at SOWINS, located at #218 246 Martin St., or the Wings store at 456 Main St.


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