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Merchants on downtown Courtenay street assisting the homeless
Terry Chaney works to brighten the holidays for homeless people in the Comox Valley.
With help from other Fourth Street businesses in Courtenay, she does this in a relatively simple, yet very thoughtful way — Christmas stockings.
Filled with essentials, and of course treats, these stockings are given to homeless people via the Comox Bay Care Society's Care-A-Van, which provides medical care to the Comox Valley's homeless.
This is the second year Chaney has prepared stockings for the Valley's homeless, and she says Helen Boyd of the care society told her about the positive response they created last year among the people who received them.
"Most often she heard, 'Somebody actually made this for me?' you know, and she said they were just amazed — they loved it," recalls Chaney. "That seemed to be their biggest thing was, 'Wow, somebody made something like this for me.' "
The idea first started when Chaney, who co-owns Michael's Off Main restaurant with her husband Michael Gilbert, met four homeless men who hung out behind the restaurant several years ago.
She got to know them by spending time talking to them on her breaks, and when the holidays rolled around, she wanted to do something special for them.
"I've always loved doing stockings," she admits. "But I decided these guys don't have Christmas and it's one of the fun parts of Christmas — and I realize there's many people without and we need to feed people and all these things, but this little Christmas stocking with goodies and treats in it really puts a smile on some people's faces."
After a few years the homeless men left and Chaney was in the restaurant telling a friend about how she wouldn't make the stockings for them anymore. Boyd happened to be sitting there having a cup of coffee and, overhearing the conversation, she introduced herself to Chaney.
"I said, 'Well, this is perfect because if I can get people to help me make stockings, you guys can deliver them,'" recalls Chaney, adding Boyd was delighted with the idea.
Chaney called around to other businesses on Fourth Street and many of them offered to help by filling some stockings themselves or by donating supplies for Chaney to fill them.
Thirty stockings were handed out last year and Chaney is hoping to get enough supplies for 35 this year.
She ensures each stocking has any two of these four items: a hat, gloves, socks and a scarf. They also hold a selection of helpful things like mini first aid kits, mini nail clipper kits, hand cream, lip balm, packages of sanitary wet wipes, hand and foot warmers and small denomination gift cards to places such as McDonald's or Tim Hortons so they can get a hot meal.
But she says that while these items are very important, treats are, too.
Cookies, candy canes, and other edible goodies go into every stocking. Things like playing cards also go in for fun.
Chaney notes Boyd has given her some tips on what sorts of items would be helpful to someone who is homeless, and Chaney checks over every stocking to make sure it's got the right mix of items, noting each one is a little bit different.
She says the support from Fourth Street businesses has been amazing, especially noting the Coastal Community Credit Union, which is making up about a third of the stockings this year.
Although she would like to keep business involvement in the initiative limited to Fourth Street businesses, she says she would welcome support from interested individuals in the community.
"I would love that if they wanted to give me things or help out because it just means I can make more stockings for these people," she says.
"The thought to me, when I thought of homeless people on the streets, was, 'If I can get one smile, and the thought goes through your head that somebody actually cared enough to give you this, I'm happy.'"
Anyone interested in helping can call Terry Chaney at Michael's Off Main at 250-334-2071. She plans to send the last stockings off to the Care-A-Van by Dec. 20.