YWCA Agvvik gathers gifts for Iqaluit’s less fortunate
Third annual Christmas Eve dinner extends celebration to all
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut will see to it that no one in Iqaluit is left without gifts and a holiday meal Dec. 24, when the society puts on its third annual Christmas Eve dinner.
“Anybody who is not able to have a Christmas Eve dinner is most welcome,” said Suny Jacobs, executive director of non-profit organization, which runs Iqaluit’s two women’s shelters.
Jacobs expects up to 250 less fortunate members of the community to attend the celebration.
Although the YWCA’s mandate is to provide services for women of the Baffin region — through its Qimaavik shelter for battered women and Sivummut House for homeless women and children — the Christmas Eve dinner extends to all in need of support over the holiday season.
Gifts for less fortunate children and their families is the event’s main highlight, Jacobs said.
“There were people who cried last year,” she said, recalling a few parents of children who would have otherwise gone without gifts.
Jacobs said the YWCA was sure the event would have to continue, given the number of needy families without means to celebrate.
Donations of gifts from individuals and various businesses and organizations have made the event a success. Among them are the RCMP, the local charity Angel Tree, Northmart, and Arctic Ventures.
Large businesses from outside the territory, such as Wal-Mart and Winners stores have also contributed this year, Jacobs said.
Last year’s celebration drew 188 Iqaluit residents.
“We were able to provide gifts to every single person who came last year. Same thing this year, and we’re expecting anywhere from 225 to 250 people,” Jacobs said.
“We’re trying to collect some from everywhere, to make sure Christmas Eve will be celebrated in the best possible way for the less fortunate here.”
The gift drive started in October, and includes “anything and everything,” Jacobs said, starting with clothing and toys for children.
Donors’ generosity has helped make the event a success, she said, given that YWCA Agvvik can barely keep up with the demand for the services it offers through its two facilities in Iqaluit.
The Qimaavik shelter for battered women from throughout the Baffin region “always runs at overcapacity,” Jacobs said.
Sivummut House for homeless women and children of Iqaluit “is more or less the same,” she said.
A lengthy waiting list for social housing has kept occupancy at the homeless shelter near capacity.
For 2014, the YWCA hopes to start on a plan to build a 10-unit “transitional housing” project for families, which will allow the homeless shelter to take on increasing demand.
“We are looking forward to that being completed in the next two years,” Jacobs said, which will require $4.5 million in funding. The YWCA is seeking funds from private corporations as well as from government.
In addition to helping women who are short on options, YWCA Agvvik looks forward to serving the broader community in the coming years, says president Sheila Levy.
A leadership program for young Inuit women, announced in September, marked a step in that direction, Levy said.
This is part of “moving out in the community and serving the community as well,” she said. “Especially in trying to support women in positive ways, so that hopefully they don’t end up needing to use the shelter.”
The Christmas season is the most obvious time to extend help to all the less fortunate, not just clients of the shelter and home.
“We get a lot of good donations of presents for the women and children,” Levy said of the Christmas Eve dinner and gift drive. “It’s something everybody enjoys helping out with too. I think people feel good when they are giving.”
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut’s Christmas Eve dinner in Iqaluit takes place in the evening, Dec. 24, at the community soup kitchen.