The Blessings in a Backpack campaign donated more than 200 backpacks to the guests of the Upper Room Mission in Vernon on Dec. 23, 2019. (Contributed)

The Blessings in a Backpack campaign donated more than 200 backpacks to the guests of the Upper Room Mission in Vernon on Dec. 23, 2019. (Contributed)

Pack a bag for a Vernonite in need

Vernon’s Upper Room Mission kicks off holiday campaign

Winter weather has already blanketed the valley and although it may not be here to stay yet, the snow is a reminder of what is to come: Christmas.

This holiday season, the Upper Room Mission (URM) is once again collecting backpacks filled with supplies to offer its clients.

The Blessings in a Backpack campaign has been in operation for more than 13 years and last year, 265 backpacks were handed out to those in need at the annual Christmas supper. But general manager Naomi Rouck said there were still some clients that needed one.

The Upper Room Mission will be collecting backpacks for children and adults until Dec. 20, 2020, but Rouck is asking donors to get them to the mission earlier to allow for some quarantine time amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When people drop off a backpack, we do quarantine them for a while,” she said. “Just in case someone has had the virus — we want to lock them up.”

Donors are also reminded to label their pack for its intended recipient; boy, girl, man or woman.

“Last year, we ran out of more backpacks for men than we did for women,” Rouck said. “We had to throw things together for the men. People seem to tend to buy for women as they think it’s easier but in all reality, it’s easier to do for a man.”

Rouck said hygiene supplies are an excellent contribution to the backpacks, but other items can be added as well.

“People can put in hand and feet warmers, toothbrushes, a warm sweater, basic hygiene things, colouring books, crayons, flashlights, Q-Tips,” she said. “Baby wipes are a big, big thing for people who are on the streets.”

Masks are a welcome donation as well, she said.

“We do hand out masks right now too,” she said of the URM. “A lot of the people don’t want to wear them, but we try to encourage it. Especially with cases rising rapidly again.”

The backpacks will once again be distributed during the Christmas Supper on Dec. 23.

The goal this year is to collect more than 265 backpacks. Donations are accepted Monday through Thursday between 8-3 p.m.

The Upper Room Mission is operating at full capacity with COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in place, but the organization is short of volunteers, Rouck said.

“Yes! Please come and see me,” she said to any interested in lending a hand with the mission’s operations.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Breakfast is back at Vernon’s Upper Room Mission

READ MORE: Drive-thru donations accepted for Kal Rotary Dream Auction fundraiser


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