To the Editor:
We did it, Thompson!
Thanks to all of your generous donations, we successfully threw the homeless shelter a party they will never forget!
The food was initially all planned to be purchased out-of-pocket but thanks to the incredible generosity of several local small businesses, it became very much like the biblical story of the boy who brought five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd.
We delivered enough pizza, beverages, chips, cupcakes, fruit and vegetables to feed all of the residents for several meals!
The food delivered to the shelter included five cans of coffee, two boxes of tea, 96 cans and 120 two-litre bottles of pop, 60 bottles of Snapple, 120 bottles of water, five boxes of Kool-Aid Jammers, one large can of hot chocolate mix, one large can of Coffee Mate, five party pizzas, two large fruit and vegetable trays, more than 2,900 individual and family-sized bags of potato chips, and 50 cupcakes.
My initial goal for donations was $250 but the monetary donations reached $2,675.18 from all over Canada and even as far away as Baltimore, Maryland!
That is over 10 times my goal!
These donations meant that the homeless shelter also received some great gifts, including a three-piece entertainment unit, two bookcases, one coffee station/sofa table, one variable temperature control kettle and two large outdoor garbage cans plus over $600 in Walmart gift cards for groceries and clothing for the residents.
Thank you to Arctic Beverages Thompson, Arnason Distributors, the Book Nook, The Brick, Canadian Mental Health Association, Chev's Creations, 102.9FM CHTM Arctic Radio, 95.1FM CHVN Radio in Winnipeg, NC Crossroad Bowling Lanes, Friuli Apartments, Pizza Hut, Mike Thorbourne's R.D. Parker Collegiate T40S class Project for the People, and Mel Versluis from the Thompson Pentecostal Assembly for your help with delivery.
And thanks to everybody far and wide who donated to help make this dream become a reality! Special thanks to my mom, dad and siblings who helped with all the behind-the-scenes stuff such as budgeting, planning, emailing and phone calls.
I had no idea it would get as big as it did and I could not have done this event without all of your help.
When I set out to throw a party for the homeless shelter I wanted to draw attention away from what I've lost during the pandemic and instead focus on those in my community who had next to nothing even before COVID-19 hit.
It's easy to feel sorry for myself when I grieve things like the band and choir trips or drama performances I never had, how different my prom and grad will be or even all the stress of the constantly changing rules that affect whether I can see my friends or my church family.
As an extrovert, I've struggled with bouts of depression from all these changes and the closer I got to being an adult I was plagued with anxiety over how I was going to survive this crazy world we live in.
I had high hopes of being able to celebrate this milestone birthday with all the important people in my life and I was angry that COVID had cost my family and I so much.
And then a family friend made a suggestion of making a donation to a worthwhile cause in honour of my birthday.
God reminded me of the people in town who have lost way more than I can even imagine and I knew my perspective had to change.
From there, an idea was born of blessing those that are often forgotten about or judged in society.
I was upset over one birthday party while they've missed countless celebrations and family gatherings over the years. I was upset I couldn't leave my house while they don't even have a home to call their own.
My social media feed is full of adults debating politics, masks and vaccines while those at the shelter struggle to even receive proper healthcare.
My family has lost wages and had our health affected by this pandemic but the people at the shelter often don't know where their next meal will come from.
I've grown up homeschooled and a student at R.D. Parker Collegiate with a world of educational opportunities ahead of me while residents at the shelter not only suffer with the generational trauma of residential schools but they have skills in trades and hard-earned diplomas and degrees that they can't use because of circumstances out of their control.
These are real people with real stories. Real families and real struggles.
These are citizens of Thompson just as much as I am.
Just as you all jumped in to help a boy from a respected family, I'm praying this whole experience will give you pause and remind you that all it took was an idea and a little bit of heart to help those in town that needed it the most.
I am already hearing stories of how perspectives have changed as you see some of these folks downtown and remembered they had a pizza party thanks to a community who cared.
Please don't let it stop there!
If you aren't comfortable giving them money when asked, maybe keep some gift cards in your wallet to hand out to surprise them with a free meal or coffee.
If you have some extra clothes or groceries, the shelter is always in need of donations.
Or if you have some extra time, they are always in need of volunteers at the shelter.
You will not regret taking an active role in the lives of these people as they give you much more than you can ever give them – a reality check.
And thank you to the residents of the shelter for the beautiful art pieces as a birthday present!
Thank you for helping to make my 18th birthday one I will look back on for the rest of my life. I challenge you and look forward to seeing you all make your mark in both big and small ways.
Colin T. Winship