With temperatures falling, members of the Lethbridge College community did one of the things they do best — rise up and come together to support others.
By the end of the coldest week of 2021, a convergence of partnerships and goodwill from campus provided a hot meal for 75 people and winter clothing for those at risk due to homelessness and hunger for two community groups.
It began when members of the college’s Indigenous community decided to join former student Tiffany Weasel Head (General Arts and Science 2020) for the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser. This year’s event, scheduled for Feb. 20 with in-person or virtual walks, will raise money for Streets Alive Mission. This is Weasel Head’s fifth year participating in Coldest Night. Her team, called Mike’s Angels, is named in the memory of her father, who was homeless before his passing. “It showed me that even our own people who are homeless are someone’s dad, mom, auntie, uncle, brother, sister, son, daughter or relative. So, let’s support them and show we care.”
Indigenous Services manager Shanda Webber posted on her personal Facebook page about joining the team and how Streets Alive and the SAGE Clan had urgent need for donations.
Streets Alive provides services to people living in poverty, including shelter, meals and clothing. The SAGE Clan is a grassroots organization that patrols Lethbridge streets offering to serve, assist, guard and engage the homeless and those suffering from addiction.
“The need is so great with COVID-19 and now with the polar vortex,” says Webber. “This is an opportunity for us to help our people who are struggling with homelessness, hurt and hunger in our community. We have such a tight-knit college community. Even with many of us working from home, we are still finding ways to stand together and to keep moving forward.”
It didn’t take long for colleagues around campus to respond.
Lethbridge College Students’ Association (LCSA) provided Streets Alive nine large bags of clothing, including winter coats and boots, left unclaimed last year in lockers.
Chef Mark Dieser, manager of Food Services and Culinary Careers, suggested using canned goods and meat from the LCSA to make chili and fresh-baked buns – enough for 75 people -- to be distributed Friday by the SAGE Clan.
The food from the LCSA Food Bank includes contributions from CANstruction 2020, a community event that sees students from the college’s Engineering programs join others in creating elaborate structures from canned goods. The cans are later distributed to Interfaith, Lethbridge and LCSA Food Banks.
“Maybe it’s because our students stayed home and are studying remotely but our food bank has not been as busy in other years,” says Angela Fretts-Waters, LCSA services coordinator. “We would normally have events on campus where we’d serve chili or soups to our students, but we can’t do that right now. We still want this food to get to those who need it so we’re finding other ways. We’ve been putting out canned goods outside our office and in the trades area for students to just take as they need.”
Lethbridge College students can access the food bank by contacting Fretts-Waters for an application form and to make an appointment for pickup.
Students also played an important role in spreading warmth during the cold snap. The chili was prepared by first-year Culinary Careers students. Second-year Baker apprentice students made the buns.
“It’s such a strange year,” says Dieser, whose Culinary students would normally be gaining experience by catering events on campus, something not possible this year due to pandemic restrictions. “But we still want our students to have opportunities to use their skills to support the community, and this is a way for us to do that.”
As the week-long cold dragged on, Webber also offered to collect donations of coats, tuques, gloves and blankets for the SAGE Clan. Her willingness to collect and deliver donations Thursday through Saturday last week was shared in a college employee newsletter Thursday morning, and within the first few hours, she was hearing from colleagues wanting to contribute.
“I was in tears reading emails from people wanting to help out” Webber says. “People were saying they had in the back of their minds that they wanted to help, and this just moved them to take action. It shows how much of a difference we can make in the community.”
The Bookstore alone donated three boxes of hoodies, mitts and tuques, and Webber’s vehicle was filled more than once with individual donations.
Ken Kissick, founder of Streets Alive, says the Lethbridge College response is an example of “It takes a community to care for those in need,” and that need is constant, year-round.
“We all have a responsibility to share what we have with those who have not so everyone feels loved and not forgotten,” Kissick says. “The smallest kindness often results in the biggest difference for someone in need. Anyone can be part of meeting a need and making a difference.”
Streets Alive Mission has a RePurpose Donation Drop-off Centre. For location and hours to make donations, visit the website.
The SAGE Clan accepts monetary donations online.