Curtis Omelchuk pharmacist and owner of Remedy’s RX Sterling Centre, Cera Brown of the upper room mission, Dana Fraser, Remedy’s RX pharmacist, Dr. Louise Van Zyl, and Sheridon Fraser, RN BScN, pose with the donated backpacks. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

Vernon blessings in a backpack campaign a success

About 100 backpacks full of essentials were anonymously donated to Vernon’s Upper Room Mission this holiday season.

For some, a small pack full of essentials could be the only gift they get this holiday season.

This year, Vernon’s Upper Room Mission Society teamed up with Remedy’s pharmacy at the Sterling Centre to try to raise awareness and support of their Blessings in a Backpack campaign.

Related: Backpack charity benefits from Curves food drive

Related: Backpacks send kids to class

With winter fast approaching, organizers said these items collected are considered very valuable by those who receive them. The Upper Room Mission’s Cera Brown, who re-branded the campaign this year, said that some have been asking about the backpacks since November.

“For some of these folks, getting something as simple as a brand new pair of socks is a blessing,” she said. “For most of us, it’s only socks — we have 80 pairs of them — but for some of these people they only have one pair and that pair is in the backpack the receive through these donations.”

Packs were asked to be labelled male or female and filled with warm gloves, a scarf and/or toque, new socks & underwear, a heavy sweatshirt and/or warm jacket, toiletry items (travel size is best), and a small flashlight. Many also included additional treats, cards or personalized notes.

Sheridon Fraser, RN BScN, and Dr. Louise Van Zyl, who both work in the Sterling Centre, caught wind of the campaign and decided to do what they could to help “kick-start” it. They began a Facebook page, hung up flyers and, with the help of Curtis Omelchuk, pharmacist and owner of Remedy’s RX Sterling Centre, and pharmacist Dana Fraser, they began promoting it to their clients and customers.

Dana said that they got involved because they wanted to do something positive during the holidays and, because of their location, they tend to service much of the same clientele that the Mission does and felt it was an “obvious decision” to take the opportunity to help the people they work with each day.

“We had become aware of the program because Sheridon and I had both worked in the building [Sterling Centre] and we feel like we’ve been more involved in the downtown community and we’ve seen a lot more people in need, and we thought it was a great idea and they just needed more traction,” said Dana. “We felt like there were a lot of people who wanted to help but didn’t necessarily know how to approach it.”

With a rough goal of 50 packs, the group managed to double that.

“It’s been very successful,” said. “It’s been very amazing and there’s been a diverse group of people who have had families bring in as many as four packs and elderly people who want to take part, young people — just a very supportive community overall.”

All involved in the project wanted to send out a thank you to all those who donated — all of which was done anonymously.

“I think it was pretty amazing because people came in, donated a pack and really wanted no recognition for it. It’s a very understated thing,” said Brown.

Dana agreed. “They’re silent and they’re just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts so people have a better Christmas and I think that’s awesome.”

Packs will be distributed after the annual Christmas dinner at the Mission on Dec. 24.

Related: Vernon homeless numbers rise

Related: Mission gets grant

Related: Vernon Starfish Pack Program grows

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The team received about 100 donated backpacks for this year’s campaign. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

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