Without more donations, a hundred of the community’s most vulnerable may go without a Christmas gift this year.
“It’s definitely hard, just not being home for the holidays,” said Jupiter George, a woman staying at Sandy Merriman House.
But what helps, she noted, are things like presents and playing holiday traditions like Elf on the Shelf.
“I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit just because the holidays are always so hard for me but the shelter is always helping me get into the Christmas spirit which is great,” George said.
Personalized Christmas gifts at the shelters have been a long-standing tradition at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, made possible by volunteers in a group called Homeless Partners.
“It was really nice to actually feel like somebody actually cared about you, you know, like you still mattered and that to wake up to a gift underneath the tree was something special,” said former shelter resident Agnes Ratcliffe.
This kind of personalized gift-giving is no longer an option as the organizers have retired.
“So we were facing a real worry that most people wouldn’t be able to get anything for Christmas this year,” said Lori Angelini, the society’s manager of philanthropy. Angelini said that’s why they’ve launched another program called the “spirit of giving.”
It’s an online shopping cart where you can buy gift cards that will be given directly to people staying at a shelter on Christmas.
“To get a gift card and to be able to go out and choose your own gift it can be quite empowering because people who are staying in shelters often don’t have a lot of choices in life and this does give them a choice,” said Angelini.
With only two days remaining for donations, the society doesn’t have enough gifts for everyone. They need about 150 more gift cards.
The cards will be given to people at all four emergency shelters: Rock Bay Landing, Sandy Merriman House, Next Steps and the Cool Aid Temporary Shelter.