As the Iniskim Centre’s Nancy Clennett and Tracey Bert sort through the pile of winter clothing and blanket donations they’ve received, the joy that they share from knowing their efforts will help others is awe-inspiring.
Throughout the Winter semester, the Iniskim Centre pioneered a heartwarming initiative to collect warm clothing and blankets to donate to local charities that support our city’s homeless, and coined it as the “Brining Warmth to Winter” campaign — part of The Good Karma Project.
Clennett, a student in the Child and Youth Care Counselling diploma program, came up with the idea for the collection and the Good Karma Project, as she knows all too well how cold Calgary winters can be when living on our city’s streets — just five years ago she was part of Calgary’s homeless population, struggling with addiction and fighting to stay warm.
Because Clennett had only a sixth grade education and little support in dealing with her problems, the thought of attending university seemed way beyond her reach.
“It’s really hard when people think that you’re nothing and won’t do anything to help you out. It just brings you even further down,” Clennett explains. “I heard that I was a piece of crap so many times that I actually believed that that was my life and that I had nothing else going on for me.”
Overcoming challenging obstacles
With a little bit of support and a strong will to overcome her problems, Clennett got the help she needed to get her life back on track.
Now five years later, and preparing for her last semester in Child and Youth Care Counselling, Clennett has taken it upon herself to give back to those who are facing the same challenges that she overcame.
By reaching out to the generous Mount Royal community to help her bring some warmth to those facing the cold winter on Calgary streets, Clennett is hoping those who are struggling to find some light throughout the winter.
“I just really feel for people… because I know what it’s like when people just don’t care about you and because you are having hard times, they just discard you,” says Clennett.
The warm clothing and blankets that were collected are her way of showing that people do care, and the collection will be donated to several local charities who work on the frontlines with Calgary’s homeless such as The DI: Calgary Drop-in & Rehab Centre and Avenue 15 Youth Group.
“We really didn’t know how it was going to turn out, but I can honestly say I was very impressed by the response from the Mount Royal community as well as the outside community,” says Bert, student success coordinator for the Iniskim Centre. “We’ve even had donations from as far away as Edmonton.”
Continuing the cause
Moving forward, each semester Clennett will lead a different initiative aimed at helping out Calgarians in need.
Keep an eye out in the new year for phase II of Clennett’s Good Karma Project, “Bottles for a Cause”, where she will again be looking to the campus community for support in collecting money and gently used baby items to assemble baskets that she says will help out new mothers and families that are struggling to make ends meet.
“Really, I just like helping people,” says Clennett.
— Brendan Greenslade, Dec. 6, 2012