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Giving Back At Christmas: Our Downtown Eastside Experience

  • December 27, 2018
  • By Karen
Giving Back At Christmas: Our Downtown Eastside Experience

My family and I have been giving back at Christmas for many years. Giving back to the community is, of course, a great idea at any time of the year. But at Christmas, we put together a “giveback” no matter what.


Our givebacks have included sponsoring a family or three, giving food bank donations, organizing shoe, coat and boot drives, and putting on toy drives. And for the past 3 years we’ve been giving back to the community by making peanut butter and jam sandwiches for people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. (If you’re at all familiar with Vancouver, you’ll know the Downtown Eastside is a notoriously downtrodden neighbourhood where a lot of people are living rough on the streets.)





What started as a 4 person team has now grown. And I absolutely love that it is growing. It’s all about the kindness!


I decided to split up sandwich making day and hand out day as I thought the two tasks on one day would have been too much. But it turned out that the sandwich makers were extremely efficient. We had our friends Stew and Mrs. Black making sandwiches, and then my husband Russ, my son Ryland, and his girlfriend Ali hand them out. In fact, Ali started a new initiative. She brought socks to hand out. We all did what we could and we worked together really well.





Giving back at Christmas very often involves a big Costco shop. This year, we got bread, peanut butter, jam, juice boxes, wagon wheels, and Rice Krispies.


The whole experience was so inspiring. All the “thank you’s”. “Merry Christmas”. “God bless”. All the people we met in the Downtown Eastside were amazingly sweet and, jeepers, were they grateful.


I loved it when one of the  ladies said, in a voice of pure elation, “Are those Rice Krispies squares? Can I please have one of those?” I gave her two–okay, okay, three.


It is hard to see people living on the streets but, holy, they were smiling and hugging each other.

All together, we had 210 sandwiches, 300+ juice boxes, and 300+ wagon wheels and Rice Krispies squares combined. And all of this was handed out in under 30 minutes.


Thank you to Russ, Ryland, Delaney, Ali, Mrs. Black (AKA Grandy), Stew, Jackie, Tania, and Oshyn for joining forces and making this all happen!


Yes, this is something that we do to give back at Christmas but I have a goal to expand it throughout the year. Christmas is a great time to remember to give but the Downtown Eastside is always in need of food.


If you are thinking of doing a giveback like ours, here are some tips that have worked for us:


  • Choose soft foods
  • Choose simple foods
  • Juice boxes are a hit (especially grape)
  • Use reusable bags for the sandwiches
  • Keep all of your parts separate as some won’t want the sandwich but would like the juice box and the snack
  • Be ready as you will have a line up– word travels fast!


Giving back to the community feels darn good.  If I can help someone, it gives me a profoundly positive feeling and who doesn’t want more of that?




By Karen, December 27, 2018
Sunchokes, 3 ways!
Red Velvet Brownies
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