The Victoria Cool Aid Society is reaching out to the public for help as it faces a gift shortage for people staying in shelters this Christmas.
This year, for example, Jupiter George is having her first Christmas at the Sandy Merriman House, which Cool Aid operates. The women’s supportive housing unit helps women who are getting back on their feet, but around the holiday season staff try to do more than that, they try to make patrons feel like family.
“I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit because the holidays are always so hard for me,” George said. “I think it’s amazing how they are always here for people, here and on the streets.”
One way Cool Aid has done this is by making sure its patrons receive holiday gifts. In the past, Cool Aid worked with Homeless Partners to interview people and find out specifically what they’d like for Christmas.
Agnes Ratcliff received one of these gifts last year when she got a pair of winter boots.
“It was nice to wake up to something under the tree, it was like being a little kid again,” Ratcliff said.
This year, however, Cool Aid has had to shift its course after the organizers at Homeless Partners retired, leaving staff with a short window to organize something together.
“This year we created a new program with an online shopping cart,” said Lori Angelini, manager of philanthropy at Cool Aid. “People can go online and choose from a variety of gift cards from some local and some bigger stores … We thought that would be a good way to ensure that people get something for Christmas.”
Gift cards can be purchased for Peninsula Co-Op, Save-On-Foods, Mark’s Work Warehouse, 7-11, WIN, Shoppers Drug Mart, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s or Walmart. Cool Aid patrons can then choose which gift card they’d like to receive.
Cool Aid hopes to have 200 cards purchased, but so far only 60 have been bought.
“We’re definitely facing a shortage,” Angelini said.
The gift cards range in price from $25 to $50, or a different amount can be donated directly to Cool Aid for its continuing work.
“Just being able to give to people who might not otherwise have a Christmas is a wonderful idea,” Ratcliff said. “Programs like this definitely help you feel like you’re loved and cared for at Christmas, it’s super important and it’s helped me a lot.”
Anyone interested in purchasing a gift card can visit coolaid.org/buyagift.