Vernon local Dina Niskakoski decided to challenge the community to donate food, used clothes and household items to women in need through the local chapter of H.O.P.E. Outreach. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

Vernon local Dina Niskakoski decided to challenge the community to donate food, used clothes and household items to women in need through the local chapter of H.O.P.E. Outreach. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

Vernon “Stuff the Truck” for H.O.P.E. a success

With a growing homeless population, Dina Niskakoski wanted to make an positive impact.

Vernon community “Stuff the Truck” event went off without a hitch Wednesday.

Event organizer Dina Niskakoski said she is one of many people who has never had to think about having clean clothes or a toothbrush or worry about where her next meal is coming from — but she knows she’s lucky because many can’t say the same. Knowing of the growing homeless and addiction problem in Vernon, she decided to take action.

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Niskakoski spent Wednesday night “stuffing her truck” for H.O.P.E. Outreach. Posting to community forums and creating an event on Facebook, she hoped to appeal to this growing need in the community. She asked people to donate used clothing, food, and household items people need — anything that could make someone else’s life better or easier. The list included: toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes, water bottles, makeup, hair ties, hair brushes and combs, tissues, sweaters, winter, coats, jewelry, re-useable water bottles, gloves and mittens, hats, women’s socks, gift cards, tampons, razors and Q-tips.

H.O.P.E., helping out people exploited, is a night time outreach program dedicated to serving homeless, addicted or exploited women living on the streets. Niskakoski decided this organization after attending a United Way campaign kick-off last week and learning that H.O.P.E. Outreach was one of many organizations that they support.

“This organization [H.O.P.E.] really tugged at my heartstrings,” she said. “It was really just a grassroots idea and it started spreading through social media which is amazing because the donations are one part of it and that’s so awesome but the other part is raising awareness for these organizations that are doing so much in our communities to help people so I’m really excited about it.”

Her first video had over 2,500 views.

“I saw that she was doing such an amazing thing and it hits home for me because there has been a few times where I sort of needed help and so I thought, “let’s do it” and I brought my truck just in case this one filled up,” said Brandy Sarrasin, one of the first people to volunteer to help “stuff the truck.”

Located in the corner of the Wholesale Club parking lot near the highway from 5- 7 p.m., her truck was soon running out of space.

“I didn’t realize how small my truck is. I showed up ten minutes early and there was already a bunch of people lined up to donate,” said Niskakoski. “That’s the great thing about Vernon is that when you ask for help, people show up in droves — but you have to ask.”

She said she was overwhelmed by the support she received and that if the need is there and the community is as helpful as they were, she would likely do similar events in the future.

“It’s 7:03 and we’ve officially stuffed the truck. I am so happy and grateful for every single person who stopped and donated today or messaged me and said that they couldn’t stop by today but still wanted to donate stuff. I will go pick those up or you can drop it off at my house,” Niskakoski said in a Facebook video. “It was overwhelming and my truck is packed. H.O.P.E. Okanagan will be getting a big donation on Friday and hopefully, this raised some awareness for people here in Vernon and throughout the Okanagan who may need our help.”

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