SOARing gives back(packs)
Youth program helping the homeless for the holidays
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 06:00 am
Christmas is coming early for the homeless both here and in Edmonton, all thanks to the youth volunteers called SOARing. The name means Stand Out and Represent, Inspiring the New Generation and they really do stand out as exemplars for their peers.
The caring and committed crew of 13 representatives is in the middle of putting on Project Giving Back(packs). Its objective was to compile 50 backpacks filled with all kinds of useful things, including a lot of love.
“We sat down and thought of what could we do at Christmas that would have an impact that was in line with our mission … to create and promote opportunities for youth to volunteer in our community,” explained Laura Salter, the co-ordinator of the SOARing program at the Community Information and Volunteer Centre.
“What could we do that would positively impact the community and that would also include some other youths besides ourselves?”
People are never too young to start helping others, she said, and SOARing definitely wears its youthful heart on its sleeve. It enlisted the help of local teens for this community project that also focuses on youths as the beneficiaries of their assistance. The representatives asked area schools including Wild Rose Elementary and businesses to put together these “gift bags with shoulder straps.”
Many of the schools that were asked were already involved with other seasonal charity projects. Salter said that she was blown away by how favourably some of them responded.
“Ronald Harvey … I just asked them to make us Christmas cards to put in the bags. They came back and said, ‘No, we want to collect items as well.’ They have over 200 items for us. That’s awesome! What I heard from Cuts is that a lot of students filled a whole backpack themselves and there’s even more than what we asked for in there.”
She also paid thanks to the St. Albert Costco and Safeway stores for their donations.
The original goal was only to help the homeless community in Edmonton but that quickly expanded to include this city. St. Albert’s own homeless population, she continued, might not be as visible but it’s still there.
“Especially with youth, it’s not always as obvious that they’re homeless. There’s a lot of couch surfing that goes on, going between friends’ houses and stuff like that. It’s hard to get a really clear number on that.”
On Friday, most of the program’s reps got together at the CIVC offices to sort out the donated hygiene items, winter wear and gift cards (for food and other necessities) and assembled the final backpacks. There was everything from socks and mittens to toothbrushes and lip balm.
The backpacks are to be distributed this week with the presents split equally between the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village as well as Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) in Edmonton.
The program just celebrated its first anniversary and its corps is now at more than triple what it was at the beginning. Representatives are all between 15 and 18 years of age.
They are still doing school presentations to encourage more and more youths to get into the community spirit of giving.
SOARing’s representatives will also be at the St. Albert Food Bank to volunteer at its annual Christmas banquet on Thursday, Dec.19.
“They are a great group of young people,” stated Pat Phelan, the director of volunteer centre services with the CIVC. “I’m very impressed with them. They’re really a nice crew.”
To learn more about SOARing, call the CIVC at 780-459-6666 or visit www.stalbertcivc.com/youth-volunteers.