Zeny David will have warm clothing this winter and still be able to afford groceries.
In recent years the Edmonton woman has struggled to find steady employment after she suffered a workplace injury, and she has aspirations of becoming a qualified counsellor or social worker. With many challenges in her way, David — along with hundreds of others — was grateful for free clothing, food and services provided volunteers during the Uplift Day of Mercy on Sept. 28.
“This has helped me a lot, and I know it’s helping a lot of others too,” David said as she enjoyed a soup and sandwich at St. Alphonsus Parish in central Edmonton. “I got a pair of shoes, a winter coat, a blanket and hat. I know now I’ll be safe this winter. It’s so nice that they did this.”
For four years now, Catholic Social Services has organized the day-long event. Nearly 3,000 coats and jackets were donated this year, mostly through Catholic parishes and schools in Edmonton. Volunteers also provided lunch, family portraits, bike repairs and haircuts.
“It’s a great event, and it’s encouraging to see so many people come by and so many people showing their support,” said Troy Davies, chief executive officer of Catholic Social Services. “We couldn’t do this without the support of the community and our partners. When I’m standing in the food line serving soup, there are a lot of ‘Thank yous’ offered.”
That gratitude was seen in many of the faces at the Uplift Day of Mercy.
Edward Buckland, who lives on disability benefits, said the free haircut and donated clothing were a big help to his limited income.
Debbie Gallant attended for the first time this year, and she was amazed by the generosity.
“I live on about $800 a month so I can rarely afford a coat, boots or anything like that,” she said. “Now I’ve got a wonderful coat and I feel ready for the winter. It really makes a difference.”
The benefits of Uplift Day also come to the volunteers
Chris Stambaugh has offered free family portraits at the event since it began. Stambaugh recalled a couple who came to see him last year and told him that the photos would be their wedding pictures. The couple didn’t have enough money to hire a photographer on their actual wedding day.
“That was very touching,” Stambaugh said. “To be able to do something good and charitable with photography is great.”
There was also a spiritual component to Uplift Day.
Rev. Adam Lech offered a prayer and blessing to begin the event. Cree elder Bert Auger offered smudging outside the church.
SkyAnne Krupa describes the Uplift Day as a strong reflection of Catholic Social Services’ core values.
“You see how appreciative and thankful people are of the little things – like finding a bag or some shampoo,” said Krupa, who has volunteered since the event began.
“This really makes a statement that people are loved and valued. We try and show people they are worthy of respect and compassion regardless of what situation they’re in.”
Davies said he hopes it leaves with the community is a simple four words: “We care about you.”