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Brookswood kids delivering ‘Mugs of Love’ to needy

A dozen elementary-aged children from Brookswood will get an up-close look at the gritty face of abject poverty this Sunday.

The 10- to- 13-year-old students from Alice Brown Elementary and their parents plan to help make sandwiches and deliver them, along with “Mugs of Love” they created as part of a school leadership project, to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The Feb. 16 trip is organized and put on by the Homeless On Hastings group, based out of Langley and led by Jackie Maclean.

“Mugs of Love” was a six-week long initiative spearheaded by Alice Brown teachers Alexandra Baxfield and Marie Moats.

The school’s Leadership Group – made up of students in Grades 5 to 7 who exemplify positive leadership skills – filled unused coffee mugs with travel-sized toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes) and food items such as packets of oatmeal and cocoa. Mittens and socks were also placed in a few of the mugs.

“Anything we can stuff in there,” Baxfield said.

Over the school year, the group takes part in different events to promote school spirit, such as spirit days as well as contests, Baxfield said.

In this case, they wanted to help people who live outside of the school community, and the students came up with the idea of collecting extra coffee mugs and assembling gift packages for those who wouldn’t normally receive much love around Valentine’s Day.

The Alice Brown group connected with Homeless On Hastings through its Facebook page.

“I have a friend [Kristyl Clark] who said they were looking for people to hand out [sandwiches]… in January, and we were looking for a venue to hand these [mugs] out,” Baxfield said.

Clark sent a message to the Homeless On Hastings Facebook page, asking if they were interested, and from that point the partnership took flight.

“Facebook seems to be a fabulous means of spreading the word about what we’re doing,” Maclean said.

Baxfield said the students are learning a valuable lesson: to appreciate what they have and to think of someone other than themselves.

“We’re so involved in our own lives, and I think this is a way we can help others,” Baxfield said.

The message seems to have resonated with the students.

“I learned how needy homeless people actually are,” Grade 7 Sasha Sharman said. “These little things, they can just be such a big impact on their lives, even though they are so small.”

She noted that the students have enjoyed the project: “We’ve been really excited to do this. We’ve gotten a lot of stuff. It’s just been so much fun, putting these together.”

“It’s been really fun,” added Grade 5 Matthew Perry.

Maclean believes the timing for delivering the mugs works.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” she said. “It’s a perfect time, with Valentine’s Day. They [the recipients] really have nobody so it’s a super gesture – a really warm gesture.”

The first Homeless on Hastings event took place on Aug. 28, 2011. Led by Maclean, a group of local people handed out 477 sandwiches to the residents that day.

Last month, 25 volunteers helped make and hand out 655 sandwiches, as well as fruit and bottled water. They included Henry and Denise Guthrie, Myra and Darren Cox, Pat and Sharon McGinnis, Colleen Hayes, Tammy and Jim Wall (with their daughter Megan), new volunteers Kevin and Joanne Swiss, Glenda Jackson, Bev and Melvin Schmalzbauer from Kindersley, Sask., Scott Tyler and Rebecca Delamorandiere from Urban Road Church, Laurie Guthrie from Chilliwack, Mary Mason, Christine Trischuk, and Ryan Brightman, Henry Strymecki, Garry Johnson and his daughter Maile, and of course, Maclean.

Looking ahead to this Sunday, sandwiches are being prepared at Sheila Vandermark’s home in Cloverdale, and more volunteers are welcome to help out.

Anyone interested can email Maclean by clicking here.

Visit the Homeless on Hastings website by clicking here and Facebook page by clicking here.

Source: Langley Advance – Troy Landreville

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