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At Your Service: Trees for giving and bags for hope

The local organizer of Bag of Hope is looking for support in the form of donations of goods for the people who most need the kindness of strangers.

“We fill backpacks full of life necessities for the homeless and then we give that to them in December after providing a meal,” explained Cora Pacholok, a Grade 12 student at St. Albert Catholic High School.

Bag of Hope is a program that collects duffel bags or backpacks filled with necessities and comforts including winter wear (toques, scarves and mittens) and other articles of clothing like socks and underwear, toiletries, food (such as granola bars) and bus tickets for metro Edmonton’s homeless population. They also organize a turkey dinner to be held at the Mosaic Centre in Edmonton.

It started in 2006 by helping 75 people with these gift bags but it now serves 300 people or more every year.

The effort is a family affair since Cora started several years ago under her mom Angela’s wings. This year, it’s the daughter’s turn to become the main organizer. In doing so, she has also enlisted the colossal support of her fellow SACHS students who will be filling approximately 50 backpacks for the cause.

“It started with a service project that I had to do for Religion, but then after it was just really rewarding to be able to help the homeless of Edmonton so we kept doing it. Each year, I took on more responsibility because I wanted to just really do my part for helping other people.”

Pacholok said the greatest ne this year include warm ski or fleece mitts (size large), men’s and women’s underwear (also size large), scarves and neck warmers, shampoo and hair brushes.

The Mosaic Centre is a non-profit charity resource centre located in northeast Edmonton. Ten years ago, it opened its doors to serve the city’s most vulnerable population affected by poverty, hunger and homelessness by providing a warm, safe and welcoming community environment.

This year’s dropoff location in the city is the St. Albert Curling Club, 3 Taché St. Visit bagofhope.ca for more information. The deadline for donations is Thursday, December 12.

Gifts on the tree

The city’s Recreation and Parks department has brought back its Giving Trees located at both Servus Credit Union Place and Fountain Park Recreation Centre. There, people can bring in donated items of new winter wear like socks, scarves, hats and mittens, which will be distributed to people in need throughout the community via the St. Albert Community Village.

Last year, nearly 900 items were collected at both locations.

The campaign runs until Wednesday, January 8, 2020. For more information, visit stalbert.ca and search ‘The Giving Tree’.

Kettle Day at the bank

The Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettles are getting a few special temporary locations for one day only just before the weekend.

Friday, Dec 6 is Scotiabank’s Matching Kettle Day. For that day only, each of the city’s two branches will set up Christmas Kettle stations inside their branches to collect donations from their customers. At the end of the day, each branch will then match the donations brought in up to $5,000 per location, making the exercise a great opportunity for people to double their donations.

Early reports from inside the church indicate that donations are $15,000 ahead of where they were last year. This year’s goal is $400,000.

The two St. Albert Scotiabanks are located at Gateway Village at 2 Hebert Rd. and The Market at Citadel Village, 615 St. Albert Tr. There is also a branch located at 9927 100 St. in Morinville. Please note this program runs only during regular bank hours that day. Otherwise, regular kettle locations are up and running at many shopping destinations including most local grocery stores and shopping centres.

For more information about the Christmas Kettle campaign or to sign up for a volunteer shift, please call Kelly, Crystal or Diane at 587-334-3892 or send an email sakettleinsa@gmail.com. Volunteers can sign up for two-hour shifts running from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day except Sunday, until Dec. 24.