Mike & Krista and their two girls arrive at the offices of Original Joes just off 178 Street, the room is busy with an assembly line of volunteers putting together meals while other areas of the conference room in Original Joes are sorting through bags of clothing and blankets separating them into piles that will be distributed when SANTA YEG heads out onto Edmonton streets that evening.
The Gulseth family signs in, quickly putting themselves to work, Krista helps their daughters get their gloves on so they can help package up food and get it ready to bring to their location that Jeff Tetz, the organizer of Santa YEG will assign them to.
Santa YEG's goal is to give the gift of warm clothing and full bellies to Edmonton's less fortunate. For Mike and Krista, teaching the girls the value of helping others out, with an organization like Santa YEG is important for them. A big bonus is having their daughters work together and as part of a greater team, as the girls witness first hand the process of assembling sandwiches to handing out food and blankets.
Whether it's making sandwiches, packing up blankets, the girls have loved the hands-on opportunity Santa Yeg has extended them. Alex (their oldest daughter) says "We like it because it makes us happy and the people eating the sandwiches are happy too" while Oliva, their youngest says "she loves to meet the people and hand them soup. It makes me smile."
Once out at their location, the girls stay in the car for safety reasons but they’ll roll the windows down, talk with anyone that is around the car, handing out sandwiches and still safe at the recommendation of the Santa YEG.
Talking with Krista and Mike about their experiences and what some of the effects on the girls have been, Krista said it's those moments when the girls are aware of life's realities. The first time they went out Alex was more emotional and sad as she realized that the people she met were living on the streets, that they weren't going to go to a warm house on a cold Edmonton night the same as their family would be doing when they were finished. Whereas their youngest daughter thought the man she saw was camping on the street. They needed to explain to her that he wasn't camping but that was where he lived. Those experiences, are part of the reasons why volunteering with SANTA Yeg has become a priority for them, they have come to understand that much of the people they meet are friendly to them, that they just want as Mike says "dignity and compassion as much as the next person, something our girls have witnessed first hand".
Typically we think of giving around the holidays, but with harsh Edmonton winters there is still a long winter to get through, the Delivering Compassion campaign will continue to run through January and possibly into February. If you're interested in volunteering as an individual or as a family you can follow up through the Original Joe's site HERE >>> https://www.originaljoes.ca/santayeg
Each of the Original Joes and State and Main locations will continue to collect warm clothing at their locations around the city on behalf of Santa YEG and each week they'll be distributed through their outreach teams.
Contact for SANTA YEG: Jeff Tetz through their Facebook Page , Twitter/santaEDM or on Instagram