Clients of The BRIDGE-To-Work program said they understand the plight of the Syrian refugees because when offenders re-enter society after a stint in prison, they often feel “refugee-like,” said Garry Glowacki, executive director.
It seemed fitting then that The Bridge and Regeneration Outreach Community launch a clothing drive – dubbed From Stranger to Stranger – to collect gently used items such as winter clothes, gloves, hats, mitts, boots and others for Syrian refugees.
Within two weeks, more than 200 bags and boxes of clothing for men, women and children, along with a large assortment of toiletries and housewares, had been donated. The overwhelming success of the clothing drive created a new challenge…all of those items needed to be sorted and sized before they could be made available to people in need. Katie Andrews the Employment Coordinator organized the clothing and the sorting with her guys. In fact the whole project could not have been done without the almost daily efforts of Dave C. and Ken H.
It is often said that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Anyone who has ever met Glowacki can attest to his determination to get things done. Along with Mark Stephen, the Bridge community outreach worker and Deacon at St. Joseph’s of Nazareth, Brampton, Glowacki called local mosques and went door to door, asking for volunteers from the community. Their efforts paid off when over 120 community members stepped forward to help make a difference.
For Chad Xuereb, one of the BRIDGE members involved with the clothing drive, the initiative was an important step in reconnecting with the community following his release from prison. “Why I want to do this (clothing drive) is I have been in a situation where I was incarcerated and coming out I felt as though I was a stranger to society,” Xuereb said. “I just feel that this is an opportunity for me to help others with the help of The Bridge.”
Xuereb said he was grateful to The Bridge for helping him get back on his feet. Without the agency’s support, he said, he would have been lost. “I think it’s important for us to repay that kindness back,” he said. “And be there to help others in any situation.”
By the end of the month, an additional 200 bags / boxes were received. Donors were asked if they were open to also providing supplies and clothing to some of our native communities, most agreed. So 75 boxes and bags were assembled to send to a native community centre in Sioux Lookout where they will be further distributed to some very remote First Nations Communities, We also donated some youth clothing / coats and supplies to the First Nations School of Toronto. A big shout out to John Andras from Rotary – Toronto and Gardewine Transportation for helping to organize the delivery and distribution of donations to communities living in sometimes Refugee like conditions.
“Many of our clients know the pain of feeling isolated and alone in a world that sometimes can’t or won’t even see them,” Glowacki said. “In the spirit of their connected lives and with the support of a number community partners, this project will reflect the beliefs that we are all brothers and sisters and that we are all called to welcome the stranger. The support that FaithWorks provides is essential to the work that we do. We give thanks every day for the generosity of Anglicans throughout the Diocese who make this support possible.”