Citizen-driven group assisting City’s homeless population

  • Dec. 31, 2014 4:42 p.m.

A group of citizens have come together to prove that a person doesn’t have to belong to an organization to do some good for those in need.

Almost by accident Ed L’Ecluse and Marlene Pannenbecker, both of Lacombe, have gathered roughly 100 like-minded citizens to participate in their effort – to help those less fortunate in the Central Alberta area with a group called Line of Hope Red Deer.

“We are not there for any other reason than to give these people a helping hand. Obviously they are having a hard time and I think there is a misconception that only religious groups or other organizations try to help homeless people, but that’s just not true. Normal, everyday folks want to do what they can,” said Pannenbecker.

Each Sunday from 5 p.m. until 6:30 or 7 p.m., groups of six to eight people gather outside of Safe Harbour in Red Deer and host a meal. During this visit, they also provide the homeless population with donations of toiletries, warm clothing, blankets and whatever else they can get.

“My only goal with this is to fill up people’s stomachs on a Sunday when they’ve got no food. We just want these guys to have a good meal and a good time. They really enjoy it, too. They enjoy talking to us and just hanging out,” said L’Ecluse.

“There is such an amazing homeless population in Red Deer – they are all so nice and so helpful. When we show up, the guys run over to help us unload the trucks and get everything set up. I can’t wait for the warmer weather so we can just hang out for a bit with them.”

The items that they have been collecting are mostly men’s clothing items and toiletries. These include long and regular underwear, winter jackets, wool socks, warm mitts and gloves, toques and hoodies. Women’s clothing is not necessary.

Toiletries are always in high demand. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, travel-size shampoos and conditioners, shaving cream and disposable razors are all items that Line of Hope Red Deer is looking for.

Blankets must be twin-size or sleeping bags to be able to be stored and transported easily.

L’Ecluse, Pannenbecker and Tom Raba are constant volunteers in the program. They coordinate the efforts of the Line of Hope Red Deer group. At least two out of the three are present each week so they can be familiar faces to the homeless they are working with.

Pannenbecker said that Raba visits homeless shelters in Red Deer two or three times a week. He has created a custom storage unit in the back of his car where he keeps necessary toiletries, clothing and other items on hand to give out during the week.

He was also described by Pannenbecker as a wealth of information and an instrumental part of the operation.

“This isn’t just a Christmas thing for us – we’re going to be there all year round. There are a lot of groups that pop up around this time of year, and that is awesome, but these people need this service all the time. We’re not going anywhere,” said L’Ecluse.

With the success of the Line of Hope Red Deer facebook group, the volunteers have received donations of outdoor-use insulated containers so they can serve soups, casseroles and hot beverages to the homeless population.

L’Ecluse said all of these items, worth a total of over $700, were donated within a few hours of a post made to the facebook page. He said this was a true testament to the kindness of the communities in Central Alberta.

“This group proves a point that there are a lot of good people out there. Not everybody knows how to start something or where to put his or her efforts. There are so many kind people,” said Pannenbecker.

“It actually blows my mind because there is so much focus on negative things that happen, but when you put something good out there, in a couple weeks you can find nearly 90 people that want to help. It makes me smile that there are that many kind people in the world. I think we need more a focus on that instead of just the negative stuff. It makes such a big difference in your life.”

The group will continue the program indefinitely through all weather, each Sunday at 5 p.m.

kmendonsa@reddeerexpress.com

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