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The power of closets

Jody Vance: You can help someone in need, and it couldn’t be easier.

Want to change the life of someone living in poverty? Clean out your closets.

Seriously, this week’s Middle is about how easy it is to do some good on the local level.

I’m fully aware that there are going to be the trolls who hit back on this subject and accuse me of “virtue signalling” — I say bring it. It is simply too important to share how having direct, positive, impact on one’s community is outrageously satisfying, if not life altering.

Let me explain the simplest series of events that started last week.

It started with me being choked, having to wait a full day for delivery of something that could have taken five minutes, had I been paying real attention. In hindsight, I’m so thankful for that frustrating seven hour wait.

My kid and I were trapped, waiting for our package to be dropped off “sometime between 9 am and 6 pm.” We made ourselves busy with chores. The 12-year-old was thrilled.

We dug into cupboards, drawers, and closets in search of outgrown or unneeded clothes and shoes. My kid has grown about a foot since August, so the sheer number of his things we had to pass along was embarrassing.

In no time we had bags and bags. We found blankets and coats, gently used socks and much more.

It got us thinking about where the need would be greatest.

We talked about the cold, and about our fellow Vancouverites in need, just down the way. We’ve heard the stories of donations ending up at depots to be sorted and possibly sold – or worse, shipped overseas. The goal was put these things directly into the hands of those who could take it and put it on.

We realized we had so many things collecting dust that could help someone in need today. We thought about Sarah Blyth and the Overdose Protection Society at 58 East Hastings Street.

En route, we thought it might be nice to bring a little treat to those who tirelessly volunteer, day-in-and-day-out. An easy stop at Tim Hortons for a big box of hot chocolate and Timbits. A tiny offering for those standing guard for our city’s most vulnerable.

Why do I explain in such detail? Because it’s the details that matter. When we arrived at OPS, we were welcomed with open arms. The hot chocolate was the happy place for a group staying warm in the tiny slip of a storefront. There were a few fine folks who went out of their way to say how delicious it was to have a treat.

We were schlepping in our bags when the gent assisting us said “this stuff will go to great use.”

“There is some stuff my boy has grown out of,” I said, “two ski jackets in great condition.”

He replied, “That’s great, we have a mom who’s come through here with her boy – he’s 10 or 11.”

My son stopped in his tracks, looked at me and said, “I have so much more I can give.”There it is. The learning moment that will last a lifetime.

Now I have a 12-year-old who wants to advocate for his fellow citizens. It all started with cleaning out the closets.

If this story smacks of virtue signalling to you, then bring on yours because I want to hear it. Maybe you have a coat, blanket, some clean socks, a sleeping bag — anything really — even a big thermos or travel mugs you don’t want or really need? Think of those who might covet any one of those things.

Drop them to Sarah and her team at OPS, tell them I sent you. Or, if you can’t get to the Downtown Eastside, and you have blankets taking up space, contact and they will come to you and get it to OPS. If you’re elsewhere in the province, there are people doing great work – it just takes a moment to Google.

It will change you for the better.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.