If you come to my house this Christmas, you won’t see decorations, or a tree, or even a pile of wrapped presents waiting to be given. I won’t be wearing stuffed reindeer horns, or jingle bells, or an ugly-beautiful seasonal sweater.
In other words, you won’t know by looking at me or my environment how much Christmas means to me.
You won’t know what a big deal Christmas was to my family when I was growing up, how painful that day was the first year after the loss of beloved family members, or how I sing carols to myself year-round when I’m in need of comfort.
For better or for worse, most of us can never return to the settings of our childhood Christmases. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a place where we could be reminded – if not of childhood joys, then at least of the possibility of Christmas? That we are loved, by other humans and by a Divine Creator. That we have the capacity to give love, and that our lives are more than just a series of transactions. That – even if things don’t get better – we can.
For many people, First United is that place. A place of humble appointment but the security and comfort of unconditional love. A place that lives in the hearts of all who come here and is for that reason eternal and unchanging.
You can go home again.
Manager of Resource Development
EILEEN’S STORY: A VOICE OF COMPASSION
“I’ve had hard times, I know about it. I can help people,” says Eileen, a long-time First United volunteer.
When she was just 18 years old, Eileen was faced with the impending death of her mother, who had colon cancer. Eileen took a home nursing course to care for her in her final days. Her mother’s death, and the ensuing drug addiction her younger sister developed during the ordeal, not only instigated her difficult move from Edmonton to Vancouver but also prepared her for a lifetime of shelter and social work.
“If we show people love and kindness, it might change their lives.”
In the thirty-four years Eileen has spent volunteering with struggling communities, the last 8 have been spent at the First United Church Ministry Society.
“I’m a person who really bleeds for people, and they are like that here too,” she says. “I can be myself here, and when you can be yourself you’re better at appreciating other people.”
Eileen is one of our many volunteers who pledge their lives to the assistance of those less fortunate, and it is for people like her and the countless community members she brings into her heart that we do what we do. Eileen fosters an environment of inclusion, acceptance, compassion, and genuine interest. It warms and disarms everyone who talks to her; and that is the goal of First United.
Recently, Eileen has been helping us on the phones; contacting long-time supporters and keeping them updated as to what we have been up to. These calls often result not only in new donations but also long and compassionate conversations, many of which have given us information about services and donation avenues we would have never known about otherwise. This is what makes Eileen unique and incredibly precious to us.
Though she has volunteered for many shelters and ministries, Eileen cites the First United as the most embraced and effective.
“Everyone treats each other kindly. And it’s like anything: it’s contagious, it catches on. If we show people love and kindness, it might change their lives.”
From Eileen and everyone at First United: Merry Christmas, and may the season of giving last well into 2017.
HOW CORRINE AND JUSTINE FOUND STABILITY
It’s always nice to see familiar faces, especially of people who are doing well. Corinne and her son Justin stopped by in September to let us know how they were doing. You may remember Corinne and Justin from last year’s newsletter. Corinne came to us consumed by trauma, and fighting to stay out of addiction. Pregnant and caught in an abusive relationship, she was in deep trouble. We helped her stabilize, connect with services and find her way so she could take the reins. Despite struggles with an abusive partner and the MCFD, both her and Justin (now almost one year old!) are doing well.
"I was ready to give up but First United never gave up on me,” she says, “I have my son now and I love him more than anything. He makes me strong every day."
COMMUNITY UPDATE: COLDEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR
Save the date! Once again First United will be walking in the 3rd annual Coldest Night of the Year Downtown Eastside walk and we invite you to walk along with us. The walk will take place on February 25, 2017.
Last year we had 30 teams, 226 walkers, and a whopping 600 donors in support of our walk, which supports our community and its needs during the coldest months of the year. After we all weathered our cold walk on the family-friendly 2, 5, or 10km routes, we enjoyed a hot chili dinner together at the shelter.
The event is a rare opportunity because it offers those who wish to help organizations like First United the chance to not only experience first-hand what life during the winter months feels like for the people we serve. It also gives people the chance to see the community in close proximity and know exactly who they are walking for.
The Coldest Night of the Year event celebrates togetherness and the power of souls united for a common goal. What is that power capable of? Well, in 2016 we raised an astounding $42,200 for First United! That is almost $6000 over our total from the previous year. We are hoping to beat that total exponentially again this year, and you can help us by registering to walk. The fee for registration is $25, children under 12 walk free of charge and the fee is waived if you raise more than $150 ($75 for youth aged 12-17).
Please join us as we gather together in solidarity for our community and bring a little warmth to everyone.
For many people in the Downtown Eastside, the Christmas season is an especially lonely, dark time. Many are disconnected from their families, and feel forgotten and ignored as shoppers rush by them in the holiday hurry. No one deserves to feel this way. You can help bring hope to the holidays. By giving to First United, you’ll provide people in need with a hot meal and a place to go this Christmas. Just by showing someone they are valued and cared for, you could give them the hand they need to rise out of poverty. Your gift not only provides a safe and welcoming space, but funds vital services like advocacy and housing assistance. Will you join us in the spirit of the season and help our community?By helping people holistically, together we can make a real impact this Christmas. Please include First United on your ‘good’ list, and give generously today.