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Calgary church members collect Christmas wish lists from homeless

Deana, age 36, has lived on the street since she was 12. She recently relapsed into alcoholism after six years of sobriety. “It’s been a struggle, but I believe in my creator and myself,” she said. Her Christmas wish list: warm footwear, socks and a backpack. She’s one of more than 250 homeless people who share their Christmas wishes at www.homelesspartners.com, a Web site launched by Canadian church members Dan and Jennie Keeran.
The Calgary Homeless Christmas Wish List project gives people in this Canadian city the chance to read the requests and buy specific gifts for those in need. The Keerans launched a similar program in 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and collected 2,000 gifts for the homeless.
Most of the requests on the Web site are simple — a jacket, a phone card, a bus pass. Some are larger in scale — a chance to hear the opera, world peace. A few are heartbreaking. Richard, 46, wishes for a chance to visit a son he hasn’t seen since 1985 and a daughter who gave him two grandchildren he’s never met.
The project gives people a connection to the homeless beyond writing a check to an organization, Jennie Keeran said.
“And it’s good for the community to hear that Christians are helping others to help the poor,” she said.
Volunteers, including Calgary church members, interviewed participants at the city’s shelters and collected their lists.
“It completely destroys the stereotypes of homeless people,” John Close, youth and family minister for the Calgary church, told the Calgary Herald. “Many of them are working poor or they’ve moved here to find a job.”
The Web site encourages Calgary residents who buy gifts for the homeless to wrap the gifts, include treats and inspirational messages if they wish and deliver them to the shelter. The site also has instructions for ordering gifts online.
The site tells readers that “caring for the poor is central to the message of Jesus” and said that some of the project’s volunteers are “from groups wanting to follow in the steps of Jesus and the early Christians.” The site refers readers to World Bible School and other church-related sites for more information.
The Keerans are developing a manual for implementing the program and hope that churches across North America will start similar efforts.
“It requires only two months, it’s completely free and it’s very encouraging to the church, community and homeless people,” Jennie Keeran said.
Roy, a homeless industrial worker, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he appreciates the project’s emphasis on personalized gifts.
“To actually ask for something and receive it would be spectacular,” he said. “What you want and what you get in life aren’t always the same thing.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION see www.homelesspartners.com or e-mail [email protected].

Filed under: International

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