Calgary volunteers work through frigid Christmas to hand out meals, weather essentials

·2 min read
A Calgarian walks past the Drop-In Centre.  The downtown shelter is expanding capacity to take in more people during a Christmas cold snap.  (James Young/CBC - image credit)
A Calgarian walks past the Drop-In Centre. The downtown shelter is expanding capacity to take in more people during a Christmas cold snap. (James Young/CBC - image credit)

As temperatures in the city plummet, Calgary volunteers are working tirelessly through Christmas to hand out hot meals and cold weather essentials to people experiencing homelessness.

Community watch group Bear Clan Patrol Calgary is out patrolling through Christmas in dangerous temperatures of -25 C. Around 3:40 p.m. Saturday Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning for the City of Calgary, along with much of the province.

"We're trying to get people to move indoors. If it's affecting their present health, we're just trying to get them in the actual shelter," said Yvonne Henderson, Bear Clan volunteer.

The group is serving up 150 Christmas meals at the Drop-In Centre, an emergency shelter in downtown Calgary — including turkey dinners and hot chocolate. On Christmas Eve, they handed out 500 sandwiches and hundreds of care packages.

They're also giving out essentials to help people cope with the cold.

"We have hand warmers, we have gloves, we have toques, we have winter jackets … We have blankets that we're giving out," Henderson said.

The majority of the items the Bear Clan hands out are donated by Calgarians and small businesses.

"We've been so blessed. I can't even talk about how blessed we've been. So many people have come forward … We have lots of amazing volunteers," Henderson said.

Supplied by Bear Clan Patrol
Supplied by Bear Clan Patrol

Nathan Ross, manager of marketing and communications at Calgary Drop-In Centre, says the cold is a huge threat. The shelter has converted its overflow and administrative spaces to be able to increase its capacity.

"At no point would we ever turn away someone because of the cold. And if our capacity is reached, we do have backups in place with the City of Calgary to make sure that there is never someone turned away," Ross said.

The Drop-In also has its clothing room open for those in need of warm items.

"We've been having a great response from the community donating warm coats, warm hats, warm gloves, anything new or lightly used. We are doing our best to make sure that it gets in the hands of those who need it as fast as possible," Ross said.

"It's just fantastic being in Calgary and knowing that we have that great community support."

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