Nov. 22, 2017 – The Lethbridge College Kodiaks are chipping in to help those in need this holiday season.
This past week, Kodiaks student-athletes and coaches visited Streets Alive Mission to help sort donated items as part of this year’s Kodiaks Warm Paws campaign.
A holiday giving initiative, Warm Paws has traditionally taken place as an on-campus clothing drive, but this year the Kodiaks wanted to change it up to get more hands-on in their efforts.
“We had heard that there was a need in the community for volunteers to visit Streets Alive and help sort items to make sure they get into the hands of those in need,” says Holly Owens, Kodiaks Athletics assistant. “We thought this was a great opportunity to get our student-athletes into the community, to not only help, but to show them first-hand the services that are available in our city to support those who need help.”
A 2016 Homeless Count, conducted by the City of Lethbridge and Social Housing in Action, identified more than 85 homeless individuals in Lethbridge. While the homeless population has dropped by 68 per cent from 2008, the work of groups like Streets Alive is vital to make sure resources are available for those in need.
“Streets Alive is a mission to help the homeless and bring hope to the hopeless,” says Shawna Pinay, one of a small group of dedicated Streets Alive employees who help Lethbridge’s less fortunate. “We’re here to provide food, clothing, access to resources and a safe place for those in need to go.”
For Streets Alive, having the support of community groups like the Kodiaks is important to help ease the burden on staff and volunteers, especially as more people use their services in the winter months.
“It’s amazing for us to have people in the community that want to help these people. There’s a huge need for it in Lethbridge,” says Pinay. “A lot of people don’t get to see or experience what we do on a daily basis. For groups like the Kodiaks to come in and be a part of it and see what we actually do here is amazing.”
This is the fifth year for the Kodiaks Warm Paws campaign. For Todd Caughlin, manager of Kodiaks Athletics, it’s all about exposing student-athletes to new perspectives and giving them a chance to serve their community.
“The student-athlete experience, getting involved in the community, is one of the three pillars of success that we ask all of our Kodiaks to adhere to,” says Caughlin. “During this time of year, as the weather gets colder and the holidays approach, it is the perfect time to have our teams help out and really embrace that philosophy. We are part of something bigger as a member of the Lethbridge community, and it is our responsibility to help.”
Kodiaks men’s volleyball head coach Greg Gibos was seen lending a hand throughout the week, and says that Warm Paws is a great way to give back to the community that supports the Kodiaks in so many different ways.
“It’s super important for our athletics teams to give back to the community that gives so much to us,” says Gibos. “When you look at the people at our home games every night, it’s safe to say southern Alberta really supports the college in a big way. It’s nice when we can give back to the community, especially this time of year.”
After sorting through a mountain of donated bags and boxes, Gibos came away amazed by the generosity of the Lethbridge community.
“Just being down there for a couple of days, the amount of donations the community of Lethbridge is giving is phenomenal. Now it’s just the manpower to actually go in and sort everything and get things on the shelves for these people. It was great to have 20 athletes over the last two days come in here and put a good dent in the work they had to do.”
The items the Kodiaks sorted are placed on the shelves of the mission’s P.I.N bank, which stands for “people in need.” The bank acts like a closet. Those in need are able to visit the bank once a week and get clean clothes in exchange for the clothes they are wearing. The clothes exchanged are then laundered and re-enter the bank.
With the threat of even colder weather on the horizon, the mission is always looking for additional help and donations. For others who are looking to get involved, Pinay says it all starts with a simple visit.
“Visit our website or even better, come down and have a tour of the place. Come see what we actually do here,” says Pinay. “We have many programs and there’s many different ways to get involved.