Volunteer PamelaHason helps Seann Gentray sort through some of the items at the South Okanagan Real Estate Board's Warm Up for Winter Thursday at St. Saviour's Hall. (Mark Brett - Western News)

South Okanagan realtors warming their communities

The South Okanagan Real Estate Board distributed the donated items to the needy this week

Coming in out of the brisk fall air into Penticton’s St. Saviour’s Church Hall, Sally is warmly greeted by two volunteers and taken to where there are thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee waiting.

But that’s not all.

The entire room is filled with tables piled high with everything from blankets to winter coats, shoes and even some unmentionables.

Many other people, some who live on the street and others just a little down on their luck, are already inside sorting through the donated items and filling their bags.

READ MORE: SOREB brings back Warm up the Winter campaign

Thursday was the South Okanagan Real Estate Board’s (SOREB) annual Warm Up for Winter distribution day.

“This really means a lot that people care enough to do that, especially now when it’s really starting to get cold out,” said Sally, who asked her last name not be used. “I’m not as bad off as some, that guy over there is out on the streets all the time and has nothing.

“This just really means a lot to everyone.”

The board began collecting the items last month that were dropped off at select realty offices from Summerland to Osoyoos.

“We believe in giving back to our community. There is a need for volunteers, there is a need for support and we’re here to keep this community warm and show our gratitude as realtors to Penticton and how much we care about them,” said organizer and realtor Lori Lancaster, who was behind the counter serving the warm drinks and snacks during the afternoon. “I was really, really worried yesterday that we didn’t have enough and we ended up with two full cube vans, and as you can see, we’ve loaded the church, we actually have too much stuff but it’s going to work out well because it’s all going to the local transition homes when we’re finished.”

READ MORE: Warm Up for Winter drive expands to cover the South Okanagan

The board stepped up in 2018, taking over the program previously called Cover with Kindness that Penticton notary and Soupateria Society director Greg Litwin ran for eight years.

It was decided this year to scale the distribution back to a single day instead of two, and rather than store the leftover items volunteers take them to other facilities that help people in need, like the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS).

Seann Gentray was another of those very grateful for the work of the volunteers and the many people who cared enough to donate.

“In this day and age, homelessness is everywhere, people are hurting, people need a friend, you need a sense of belonging,” he said. “Unconditional love actually has no rules, we accept everybody as they are and just remember you could have been in that place.

“I believe we need to invest in each other rather than save each other.”


 

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Mark Brett | Reporter

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