On Dec. 14 and 15 the sixth annual Cover with Kindness event took place in Penticton to provide a variety of warm items such as coats, gloves, toques and sleeping bags for the homeless and others in need.
As I approached the church hall on the “First Day of Giving” – I noticed a rather long line of people,
Those in need, waiting for us to open at 9 a.m. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. and was quickly told by a few people they had been waiting since 7:30 a.m. It was chilly outside.
The second thing I noticed was a man sleeping in a sleeping bag in the alcove near the entrance of the of the church hall, “good morning,” I said, as I opened the door to the church hall, as he opened his eyes.
The volunteers soon arrived, smiling and ready for the day — lights on, Christmas music plugged in and playing We wish You a Merry Christmas and we opened the doors for those in need and in they came.
When they entered the church hall, their eyes widened and I heard comments of “Wow,” “Holy smokes,” “Holy Cow” and “Is this for us?” They asked this as they surveyed the blankets and mounds of winter coats and other cold weather items all for free. They hurried to the tables to first get warm, and of course in the hopes, they would find a winter coat that would fit, dry socks, winter hats, toques, gloves a blanket and perhaps a sleeping bag.
Even though some of these folks don’t live outside, they use the blankets and/or sleeping bags to keep warm inside because some do not have enough money to pay the heat/gas bills on at a warm comfortable level in their homes.
The line of people kept coming all day and the next day as well. I remember one particular day Montanna – a fellow that I had met previously who sleeps outside most days — came in near closing. He wanted to get a warm winter coat for a woman, a friend of his. He was quickly surrounded by volunteers who helped him find a warm coat for the woman (whom I also knew and she spent quite a few of her days on the street as well). As Montanna turned to leave he paused and said to us “thank you, and Merry Christmas” and started to walk away. I said “Hey Montanna what about you?”
He turned and questioned “for me?” We replied come on Montanna we’ll find you a warm coat and maybe some socks. After 10 minutes or so the volunteers found him a nice, warm long coat and as he looked in the mirror he smiled —he had found a coat to his liking.
After this day I could not stop thinking what an unselfish act that was. Here was a man that had nothing, or very little, wanting to help his friend who had less and I thought isn’t that a wonderful thing? Does that not show the true spirit of Christmas – to help others. To think of others before themselves? It also made me feel so very grateful for what I have for my blessings and gave thanks to God:
• For a warm and dry place to sleep; a roof over my head; Always enough to eat; fresh and clean water to drink and to cleanse; my freedoms and liberties; for each day I awake and go to sleep feeling safe and secure. My blessings that many people do not have. On their behalf and on Cover with Kindness’ behalf: thank you.
To the generous people of Penticton who:
1) Donated items for those in need, you made their Christmas so much warmer and brighter and they felt love and that someone cares
2) Thank you to the many Volunteers who gave of themselves to help those in need
3) Thank you to The Penticton Western and other media outlets who spread the word of our campaign to help those in need.
I remembered two quotes that I thought appropriate: “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa. And, “For it is in giving that we receive.” — Francis of Assisi.
Warm wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and warm and Happy Holiday Season!
Gregory J. Litwin is the director for Soupateria Society and volunteer co-ordinator for Cover With Kindness.