First-year student organizes an initiative to create care packages for the homeless
Concordia therapeutic recreation student Marie Nadeau started an initiative to provide care packages for the homeless in Montreal, a project that she is continuing until the end of her first year.
Nadeau was inspired to start the project last Christmas due to the large number of people she saw living on the streets near her home in Concordia’s Grey Nuns residence.
By asking friends and peers in residence for help, largely through social media, Nadeau received an extensive amount of donations ranging from canned food, sweaters and coats to toothbrushes, soaps and towels, among other items.
Since Nadeau’s goal was to get as many people to donate to the homeless as possible, the generosity of her community drove her to continue the project past the initial date of delivery, March 12, and into the end of the school year.
“Since I’m from Vancouver, we don’t really experience these harsh weather conditions, so it was crazy to see how homeless people in Montreal survive the winter,” Nadeau said. “It definitely made me feel like I should do something about it.”
It was through the Grey Nuns residence Facebook group that Nadeau reached out to other students for both donations and volunteer help, and where her project proposal first received a lot of positive recognition. In fact, Theo Grebonval, also a first-year student residing in Grey Nuns, already had a similar idea.
“I wanted to collect things and donate to the homeless already, and then she proposed the idea and it was just best to do it with her,” Grebonval said. From there, a group chat was created to allow the 19 volunteers to communicate about the details, such as group meeting times and where donations would be delivered.
“One of the first things that we talked about was what should and shouldn’t be in the care packages,” Nadeau said. “Some people had some great ideas that I didn’t initially think about, like feminine hygiene products and that’s a huge thing.” Also included in the care packages were items such as granola bars, socks, toques and Band-Aids.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What would someone need the most?’” Grebonval said. “Everyone brought what they had, and we saw what we needed and wanted to put into one care package.”
However, they received so many clothing items that Nadeau decided the best thing to do was give them directly to the Old Brewery Mission. “There was also the aspect of fairness—if I was giving a sweater in one package, and I was giving a winter jacket in one package, that might be unfair,” Nadeau said.
The care packages ended up including donations from people outside of Grey Nuns, as Grebonval reached out to his hometown of Glen Rock, N.J. during reading week. “About five or six families donated some pretty big, prepaid and pre-made packages, so it was great. We had about 20 of them,” Grebonval said.
With the 20 packages organized and ready for delivery on Sunday, March 12, Nadeau along
with Grebonval and other volunteers, went out near the Concordia downtown campus, including on Ste. Catherine Street, in -17 C weather to give out as many care packages as possible. “I would tell them I had a care package for them and would tell them
briefly what was inside,” Nadeau said. “They were very thankful and appreciative of the gesture.”
However, on the day of delivery, there ended up being more packages than there were people to receive them.
“Now, each time I leave residence, I bring at least one or two care packages with me because
I’ll always see a homeless person on my walk.” Nadeau said, adding that Grebonval does the same. “It’s just a matter of every time you’re going out, don’t just think about yourself and think about others.”
Nadeau plans to continue handing out the remaining care packages along with more she will make using incoming donations for the remainder of the semester.
For those interested in donating items such as food, clothing or toiletries for future care packages, Nadeau will be accepting donations until April 14. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.