12-year campaign benefits homeless, women’s shelter residents
BOUCKS HILL — In the lead-up to Christmas, so many kind-hearted activities take place in the region, it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all.
Case in point was the Bouck’s Hill dwelling of Beth Carhart, which buzzed with activity back in early November as she and friends assembled 250 backpack care packages for Ottawa’s homeless population as well as residents of Naomi’s Family Resource Centre in Winchester.
Volunteers methodically picked items for the rucksacks inside the former Williamsburg Legion building — now the home of Carhart and husband Tom Bauld — from a circle of product stations arranged around the livingroom — toiletries here, socks and flashlights there, and on and on it went. Boxes were strewn about with a bounty of both practical things and treats to be appreciated by those in dire straights as the holiday season approached.
It’s a 12-year tradition for the accountant, who buys the material through the year as monetary donations come in. The daylong sack-stuffing “bee” witnessed by Nation Valley News was the final flurry of activity before delivery to missions serving those in need in the Nation’s Capital.
“Stuffing actually takes very little time,” she explains, adding that clients of her Ottawa-based accountancy firm — Nunniyer Business — provide most of the funds for the charitable endeavour. “And they upped their donations this year. This has been our best year ever.”
Each sack cost between $50 and $75 to buy and fill, a cost largely covered by 25 or 30 customers that participated this year.
“One hundred percent” of their contributions went toward the cause, she adds. “There’s no overhead perse.”
Co-organizing the effort is Carhart’s friend Judy Vilon of Ottawa, though she modestly dismisses her own role. “Beth does 90 percent of it. She’s the one that does the work,” offers Vilon, a retiree who also secured some donations from her former colleagues in the federal government.
“Shopping is one of the hardest things that we have to do,” notes Carhart. “Judy has always helped, but she’s in worse health than I am.”
“I figure we’ve been doing it for 12 years, it’s time to let people know about it and get some more help,” she adds on a serious note. “Both of us are disabled, and we still do it.”
Another friend, Patricia McIntyre, assisted them with shopping duties this year.
“We want it to be better. We can’t depend on just a few people,” Carhart points out between issuing directives to the coterie of several volunteers at work on the growing “mountain” of backpacks.
Laden with goods purchased mostly at Dollarama, the completed backpacks were distributed through the Shepherds of Good Hope and the Capital City Mission, with 200 packs split between those two organizations.
“And then we do 50 that are a little bit special, and they go to the women’s shelter — Naomi House,” Carhart points out. Those sacks received items like lipstick, loofahs, hairbrushes, nail polish and slippers.
Meanwhile, Ottawa’s homeless recipients got a mix of things like blankets, rain ponchos, toilet paper, scarves, socks, snack bags, hats, gloves, first-aid kits, notebooks, pencils, candles and toiletries.
“It’s just crazy,” she says proudly, rhyming off the hours taken to assemble everything that day.
“This year we’ve been very blessed. We’re going to have a good start on next year.”
Among those who turned out for some time on Carhart’s assembly line that day was Pastor Bruce North of Harmony Church, which she attends. But it was initially through another church connection in Ottawa that she linked up with Capital City Mission as a cause. For the first few years, the private campaign benefited that organization exclusively before branching out.