With the lighting of Stella's Circle's hope signs Tuesday, residents kicked off the Christmas season with hot chocolate and carols in downtown St. John's.
Stella's Circle is a non-profit community organization offering housing, training, employment and counselling services to those who face barriers in St. John's. The group lights up signs with the word 'hope' on them across their building and the surrounding area every holiday season. Tuesday marked the fifth year in a row the signs have been lit up.
There are five signs in total placed around Stella's Circle, crafted by people working in the organization's carpentry program.
"Certainly the first event would have been a pretty small gathering," Gail Thornhill, director of housing services at Stella's Circle, said.
The event landed on Giving Tuesday, an international day of charitable giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Those festive enough braved the wet conditions in order to help ring in the sign lighting with cookies and hot chocolate from the Hungry Heart Cafe. Street acts such as fire eaters and DJs provided the entertainment, and the crowd came together to sing Christmas carols.
Thornhill says the hope signs are a great symbol that represent both Stella's Circle and the joy of the Christmas season.
"I think hope resonates with so many people, and it resonates around the holiday season," Thornhill said. "People's experiences when they come to Stella's Circle is that, maybe for the first time in their life... they experience hope, and that things can get better."
A sense of hope
Adam Harnum availed of the housing service at Stella's Circle three years ago, following an almost 15-year battle with addiction. He says the space made him feel empowered, and gave him hope in dark times.
"For the first time in my life I was introduced to people that actually believed in me," Harnum said.
Harnum says the programs offered by Stella's Circle happen because of events and fundraisers like Light up Hope, and have had a great impact on his life.
"[I've] been able to transition into the workforce from there," Harnum said. "I was able to discover, I guess, my potential and help other people."