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Everyone deserves a present: SOYA (7 photos)

Volunteers have mobilized to ensure even the most vulnerable in the community can open a present and have a warm meal

A local grass roots organization supporting the most vulnerable in our community is distributing gifts and hot meals this week.

On Tuesday, SOYA volunteers handed out dozens of gifts from its Gore Street location, along with a free hot breakfast to go with it.

Each person was allowed to select one gift for themself or for someone else.

The gift-giving event was a community effort, said SOYA founder Connie Raynor-Elliott.

Some clothes were donated from the Soup Kitchen Community Centre, while other gifts came from members of the community or SOYA's own members.

Even the wrapping of the gifts was a community effort. Employees from OLG recently came in to the SOYA depot to make the donated items look like true gifts.

“Some gifts are not wrapped so the kids can shop and see what they want,” said Raynor-Elliott.

That gift-giving event was the second this week for the organization.

At its annual Christmas dinner on Saturday, SOYA gave away over 200 stockings, each filled with staples like warm socks and gloves, as well as harm reduction supplies and personal hygiene items.

About 175 stockings were distributed at the depot on Saturday, with an additional 32 given to seniors and other vulnerable people on Saturday night.

 Raynor-Elliott said a group home reached out to SOYA on Tuesday to see if any more stockings can be made available for its residents.

"We said of course," said Raynor-Elliott. "Everyone deserves a stocking."

The SOYA food bank was topped up with items donated Sunday by the Soo Greyhounds. Although the shelves are full now, Raynor-Elliott said the food will probably only last into January.

"Right now the need is just so great," said Raynor-Elliott.

That need is expected to grow next week, as many services that assist the vulnerable population shut down or scale back over the Christmas holiday. To meet the demand, SOYA will have its doors open Christmas Eve and every day, Monday to Saturday, next week.

Raynor-Elliott said the most important donations needed at the depot are warm outerwear and winter boots.

"On Saturday we had three people come to the depot with nothing on their feet,” she said.

This month, the Royal Purple is holding a 50/50 raffle with the proceeds going to SOYA. 

Raynor-Elliott said the hope is to raise $2,500.

“Right now the chances are 1 in 61 to win, that’s better chances than the lottery," she said.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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