Back in March we wrote about a volunteer effort on Vancouver Island that focused on creating packages of supplies, clothing and toys for children living overseas. The focus at the time was on relief efforts in Haiti, but has since expanded to include other regions of the world. Much work has been done since this piece was posted, so we thought we should provide an update.
Since finishing the last stage of their Haiti relief project in concert with Canada Comforts, Victoria, Al and Shirley Hardy have continued their work in assisting those less fortunate, the needy in Canada and overseas. Shirley is starting to assemble the 100 plus Christmas shoeboxes for needy children which she produced last year as a part of her Shoebox Ministry with St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Cobble Hill, B.C. This is a protracted task of collecting empty shoeboxes and finding very low cost or donated items such as pencils, erasers, small toys, and colouring books, for example, to provide a child with an educational and interesting present at Christmas. While the Hardys have been able to find good quality items at a low cost through donations and working with local businesses and liquidation stores, low cost does not mean low quality. As you can see in the related slideshow below, they have even been able to secure donations of highly attractive shoeboxes! The past response from the church and community has been heartwarming. While the format for packaging of the items – shoeboxes – has been a theme developed by these types of programmes, it is an ideal template that any group – faith based or secular – can sed to collect and distribute needed items.
During the rest of year the items that have been created and collected by the Hardy’s volunteer team are stored in a warehouse. When a request comes in for a specific type of item – for example clothes for 20 girls in an orphanage – the items are then sent to their recipients. Another project Shirley and many, many volunteers from St. John’ and the broader community are working on currently is the production of 150 dresses and 150 skirts, plus accompanying teddy bears. Shirley and her volunteers have had two workshops where some 28 women cut out pattern dresses from donated materials. These kits are then taken away by volunteer sewers and turned into finished skirts of various sizes. They hope to have them ready for presenting to Canada Comforts before Christmas for inclusion in their shipment(s) to needy children here and overseas. Al is on the sidelines, doing the heavy lifting, running errands, preparing meals in the kitchen to feed the volunteers and helping where he can be of help.
In preparation for the annual September Festival which attracts a large number of Islanders and outside province visitors, the Hardys, with considerable help from friends and supporters, collected over 50 boxes full of toys and games. They then had to ensure that each item was in good condition, clean and appropriate. Preparations included the refurbishing of Tonka trucks and the creation of popular gift baskets with teddy bears, candy and helium balloons. A popcorn machine was secured and ice cream was brought in for the day. Because of the quality of the toys and the well set-up Kids Corner Store, sales were brisk despite the drizzly weather. The proceeds from the Festival always provide funds for outreach to the needy in our communities. Shirley is now identifying organizations who might need the large amount of leftover toys and games and they will receive them for the needy, at no cost.
Al and Shirley are keeping abreast of the Haiti situation, as well as in Pakistan and, where possible, they will make their own contributions to the ongoing wonderful work of Canada Comforts which sends shipments to the needy in countries like these and others worldwide.
Al Hardy explains his involvement this way: “The satisfaction we derive from these projects is worth all the efforts involved. One thing to note though – those of us who are now retired are generally not just sitting around doing nothing, just looking after our own narrow interests. We hear all the time about seniors being a drain on Canada’s medical system, costing money for this and that but, maybe it should be noted that seniors, even those in their 90s, are busy helping others and without any cost to the social welfare system. ”
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Original Project Haiti posting