Vernon Upper Room Mission volunteers and staff Connie Hendricks, URM community support worker (from left), Brianna, a URM volunteer, and URM general manager Cera Brown sort through the mounds of clothing donated by residents to help Mission guests during the current cold snap. (Josh Winquist/Upper Room Mission photo)

Pleas to help with cold answered for Vernon’s Upper Room Mission

Community response to help provide warm clothes and goods ‘instant and amazing’

A plea to the community from Vernon’s Upper Room Mission for blankets, gloves and any winter clothing the public could spare during the recent cold snap has drawn an overwhelming response.

From sleeping bags and mats, to winter coats and sweaters, to gloves, scarves and toques, the Greater Vernon community began donating, en masse, every imaginable item to guard against the cold.

“This past week the donations have been coming in non-stop,” said Cera Brown, Upper Room Mission general manager. “We knew we lived in a caring community, but we have never seen an outpouring of support like what we are seeing in response to the cold weather.”

Related: Vernon’s homeless struggling to stay warm

Countless community members have stopped by the mission to offer up their donations and share stories with the staff and guests.

In many cases, donated items were immediately handed out.

“One woman watched as a handmade quilt made by her grandmother was given directly to a young female guest,” said Brown. “Another young man watched as his donated jacket was used to replace the torn and tattered jacket of an older guest.”

The outpouring of support and kindness shown by the Greater Vernon community has allowed the URM to reach out to other social service agencies in Vernon to help fill their needs.

In fact, the amount of donations received is so great, the URM has contacted social service agencies in other communities to see if donated items can help in their communities.

“We’ve been told that some of the agencies in Kelowna still need jackets and other winter weather items, so we have invited them to come and collect what they need,” said Brown. “Our community has been so generous, we can actually help fill the needs of other communities, too.”

And, while the donated items have filled an immediate and obvious need in Vernon, these actions have also created something unforeseen: a dialogue between the mission, its guests and the Greater Vernon community.

“I know a lot of people in the community don’t know what we do here at the mission. In some cases, people are scared to come around here. But this week we were able to draw back the curtain a little bit and show our community what is going on,” said Brown. “I believe all this generosity is the start of a larger conversation between the community and the URM.”

Related: Vernon homeless numbers rise

The bitter cold sweeping through the Southern Interior isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The forecast is calling for minus temperatures to continue into the foreseeable future.

For the marginalized community and those sleeping rough, being exposed to these frigid conditions is extremely dangerous, if not life-threatening.

The Greater Vernon community recognizes the danger and has come to the aide of its marginalized community.

“There is no way to put into words how grateful we are to live in such a caring community,” said Brown. “From our guest to you. Thank you, Vernon.”

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