Walking into Helping Hands Street Mission for the first time on Friday, April 13 was an eye-opening experience for me. I was immediately struck by how busy the little store was with people shopping for clothes, enjoying a coffee or sitting and chatting in the group of chairs by the front window.
Meeting Helen Norris, the executive director and founder of the centre, it was not long before I was put to work moving clothes, assisting people as they dropped off donations and getting involved in what turned out to be my favorite activity; having multiple conversations with the many people who frequent the mission looking for a cup of coffee, something to eat and someone to talk to.
An interesting story from that day:
A man came in to make a donation. I had him meet me at the back door and unloaded his items which included several boxes of assorted clothes and 2 pairs of new work shoes. Taking them into the sorting room, I commented to Brenda, one of the other volunteers working there that the work shoes were very nice and wondered how long they would last. Brenda commented that I shouldn’t be surprised if someone comes in within a few days for them. Amazingly, within half an hour, a young man arrived announcing that he had been offered a construction job but it was conditional on him getting safety shoes, something he could not afford to do. Not only were we able to provide him some, but they were his exact size.
When I expressed to Helen how blown away I was with what had happened, she smiled at me and told me to get used to it, as these kinds of incidents occurred daily here. She proceeded to tell me a few other recent and very similar stories.
I was starting to understand what a special and unique place this was. Spending a few hours at the café in the evening, my appreciation grew further as I had the privilege to interact with more of the regular visitors there and further understand the sense of community and just how meaningful this place is for those that visit.
I returned to the HHSM with my son the following morning to deliver some cookies and to fix a broken shelf in the basement that I had noticed the day before. Amazingly, I was greeted by name by a number of regulars after just meeting them the day before, and I was again struck by what a truly special place the Helping Hands Street Mission is. I am so looking forward to volunteering further and feel truly blessed for the opportunity.
– Written by Cam, Volunteer at HHSM