Barrie group issued call to members after seeing immediate need among homeless people accessing city’s temporary warming centre
The office at the John Howard Society of Simcoe & Muskoka is bursting at the seams after more than a truckload of donations was dropped off Friday.
The donations — ranging from toiletries, clothing, non-perishable grocery items, puzzle books, blankets, tents and Tim Hortons gift cards — were part of an emergency call for help that went out to members of The Ripple of Kindness Barrie chapter last week.
Co-founder Mary-Anne Frith told BarrieToday the group, which consists of 280 women who have come together and are committed to supporting various local organizations, answered that call quickly and in force.
With temperatures plummeting, Frith said she, along with co-founder Barb White, knew there was an immediate need for items to assist individuals accessing the city’s temporary warming centre and quickly put out an appeal out to members on social media and by email seeking donations.
The response was beyond what they could have expected, she said.
“We were completely surprised, shocked and impressed by our community, our members and by everybody who stepped up to provide all of these items for our community,” said Frith.
White and her husband also conduct all the deliveries for the local furniture bank, so donations were loaded up into the delivery truck. Frith also drove around the city and collected any donations that needed to be picked up.
“It was a lot more than we had anticipated, but we were so incredibly thrilled,” she said, adding donations were dropped to the JHSSM, which will then distribute them accordingly. “They are the ones who have their finger on the pulse of who needs it in the community and we thought that was the best way to make sure they got out to those who needed it.”
Frith hopes the initiative will not only fill the immediate need, but also that it will prompt others in the community to dig deep in their closets — or pockets — to help.
JHSSM executive director Suzanna McCarthy told BarrieToday that she and staff were simply blown away by the sheer volume and quality of donations.
“The fact they were able to mobilize and that their membership responded with such veracity was incredible,” she said. “They pulled that all together in three days and the volume of what they have donated… it’s brand new winter boots, it’s PPE, it’s clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, gift cards.
“We were stunned. When they first called and told me they were putting out this emergency call, I cried on the phone. I was just so touched.”
McCarthy admitted there are no words to describe how she and staff felt when the truck rolled up and opened the back door to see how much was inside.
“We were really fortunate and had two clients on site who offered to unload. Even they were saying it was unbelievable to see all the (items) and to see (they) are so cared for by a community of people (they’ve) never met,” she said.
The donations have filled their entire Bradford Street office, McCarthy said, noting the next step will be to begin to sort and organize all the items. Once that’s done, the donations can be distributed to those who need it. Some items will be available at the warming centre, while some will stay housed at the JHSSM office and the organization is also working with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre to reallocate some of the donations to them.
“They just had a call out for some more supplies. Then we will be sharing with other agencies. The collaboration between all of our organizations is so key. The only way for all of us to be effective individually is to work co-operatively,” McCarthy said. “There are gaps all over the place, so by pooling our resources and coming together we can really fill those gaps and maximize our impact and outreach in the community.
“That’s really what it’s all about — making sure the folks in our community are looked after and supported — and the best way for us to do that is to work as a collective.”