Uplifting Blessings helps Orillia’s homeless and vulnerable population year round, but the volunteer group is stepping up its efforts as the holidays near.
The organization’s Christmas Drive is collecting money and essential items to assist people around Christmas. While the group welcomes donations of physical items — including winter gloves, socks, deodorant, and dental hygiene kits — it is also looking for Walmart gift card donations so volunteers can purchase items that meet people’s individual needs.
It’s important to go the extra mile at this time of year, said Carolyn-Marie Goodwin, founder of Uplifting Blessings.
“The number of people (in need) goes up around the holidays, so we’re trying to prepare ahead of time so we don’t run out of supplies,” she said.
The problem needs attention now more than ever, she added.
“The issue around homelessness has increased during COVID. Orillia has done an amazing job at addressing the needs, but even the ones that are doing OK are still struggling,” she said. “We need to recognize that we need one another.”
That’s the message she has for those wondering why they should chip in.
“It’s for our community. These are people in our community,” she said. “Everyone has experienced trauma to some degree in their lives and we can all relate to that. We’ve all been at a point in our lives where we’ve needed someone to support us.”
Uplifting Blessings has a number of “branches” to assist people in various ways. They include Suitcases of Love (for children who have had to leave their homes), Bags of Hope (providing essentials to the homeless), Pet Bags (for pets of those experiencing homelessness) and Comfort Baskets (for victims of domestic violence).
More information about those and other initiatives can be found on the group’s Facebook page. That page also includes a post detailing the items needed for the Christmas Drive. Goodwin is asking that donations be made by Dec. 20.
Donations help Uplifting Blessings provide support directly, but they will also be used to help other groups that assist vulnerable people, including the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter, North Simcoe Victim Services and Youth Haven.
Goodwin gave a shout-out to her management volunteers — Shannon McKillop, Andrea Thursby, Rebecca Christine, Rachel Scheirich, Alex Burnett, Dee O’Reilly, Kara Booth, Gina Castelli, Michelle Hill, Ruth and Andy Lehikoinen, Elizabeth Castro and family, Aicila McLeod and Bekkah Alkema — and the many others who have helped her vision come to fruition.