Drop Your Denim

Photo: Imapix on Flickr

Union Gospel Mission is asking you to drop your denim…for a good cause. On May 11-14, UGM is partnering with Rock 101 and the Vancouver Fire Department for the 2009 Denim Drive. Your new or gently used jeans could give someone less fortunate a chance to turn their life around. So please, dig deep into your closets and see what you can find. It could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Via UGM:

At UGM, we believe hope begins with a meal, but a new life can also begin with a new pair of pants. By dropping off your slightly-worn denim, you can help someone have a fresh start. Maybe your old jeans will encourage one of our guests to leave the streets and return to a trade, or to feel so good about themselves they choose to go back to school.

But we need your help to pull this off. Here are some ways you can help:

1. Spring Cleaning
Dig deep into your closets and dressers and bring down any new or slightly-used denim to our official drop offs.

2. Inspire Your Workplace
Now that you’ve battled the dust bunnies in your own closet, encourage your co-workers, colleagues, or teammates to do the same. Download and print our posters here, paste them in your lunchroom. Collect donations and bring them to the closest official drop-off.

3. Challenge Your Competitors
Once you’ve got the ball rolling at your workplace, why not put your competitors to the test? See if they can meet or exceed your organization’s generous donation.

4. Spread The Word
Get your friends, family and social network in on the action. Spread the word on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook. You can even phone, fax, email, or, get super old-school and use a carrier pigeon.

Denim can be dropped off at any of the 20 Vancouver Fire Department locations, Rock 101 or UGM’s main reception at 616 East Cordova (between 9am and 5pm.)

Help UGM Brighten Things Up

On April 10, over 3,500 people in need all across Metro Vancouver will be served a delicious Easter Dinner at UGM – and given a fresh orange at the end of the meal. They call it Orange Day.

via UGM

Here’s how it works:
  1. Enjoy the Outdoors: Between March 27 – April 10, get out of your house, enjoy the outdoors and participate in the free parks & attractions in Vancouver. But don’t spend any money!
  2. Help the Homeless: See how much you can squeeze to donate to UGM instead, whether it’s $0.32 (the price of an orange), $32.90 (10 full meals from UGM) or $329 (if you had spent the day at Whistler)
  3. Share Your Stories: Tell Vancouver about your Orange Day experiences: take photos, shoot video, blog or Tweet about it. If you tag your content with #orangeday, it’ll be automatically displayed right here.

via UGM’s blog

…why all this talk about oranges? Well oranges are fresh, bright, fun, and juicy (the list could go on). But most importantly every one of UGM’s Easter Dinner guests gets an orange at the end of their meal. It is usually received with a smile. It’s a tangible reminder that its never too late for a fresh start. No matter how much time has passed on the streets or in an addiction, UGM’s doors are always open. With your help, fresh starts can be made this Easter.

As part of Orange Day, Wallblank.com is selling limited-edition prints of a photo called Hastings Street taken by my beautiful and talented friend, Leah Gregg. All of the proceeds go to UGM (and if the photo sells out, that means $5,625).

via Wallblank.com

Photo Description: The day is breaking on Hastings Street. It’s cold. It’s rainy. You wake up on the pavement, your pillow made of concrete. It feels like every door has been slammed in your face. But there is a light. An open door. Union Gospel Mission’s Vancouver Drop-in Centre is open. This photo was taken at dawn on the busiest street in Canada’s poorest neighborhood just steps away from Union Gospel Mission’s Vancouver Drop-in where people were finding help, solace and love.

This is a No Profit Print. Each 8” x 12” print sold will buy 6 meals & each 12” x 18” print will buy 20 meals for the homeless on Orange Day – Friday, April 10th.

Please consider feeding the homeless by acquiring some incredible artwork for your home : http://www.wallblank.com/products/hastings. Help UGM make this Easter special for every one of the guests they serve.


A warm bed and a hearty meal — these are comforts of home which many of us take for granted year round. These are comforts that many people living on the streets are not afforded on a regular basis, if at all. Vital lifelines are being provided by Union Gospel Mission’s Emergency Shelter and Meal Programs, which is an organization working extremely hard to make a difference.

As we become more aware of that nagging, uneasy feeling that there is something not quite right about the orgy of consumerism most of us know as Christmas, we begin to see that it’s up to us to do something.

UGM offers life-changing programs and services: meals, chaplaincy, drop-ins, after school programs for children, family services, outreach, alcohol and drug recovery, employment and education services. Their desire is to give hope and help while creating brighter futures for men, women, youth and children in communities across Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission.

My beautiful friend Leah, an amazing and devoted UGM staff member, sent me the link to this commercial (in which she stars.) Union Gospel Mission offers you some new Christmas gift ideas. Please visit http://www.ugm.ca/christmas to find gifts that matter, for people who need it.

Imagine all the people

I have mentioned the Union Gospel Mission on this blog many times. I believe wholeheartedly in the work that they do. UGM has proven to be a valuable community resource that reaches out to thousands. Today, the impact of this incredible work that the organization does was right in front of me. The meaningful contribution that they make to people in need is heart warming, to say the least. There are no words to express the plethora of thoughts and feelings that came to the surface for me today. I spent the afternoon volunteering in their warehouse with a group of my co-workers. We organized and packed boxes of food and chose presents and put together gift baskets for specific families in need. When the families, and mothers or fathers arrived to pick up their hampers, with tears in their eyes, all hugs and thank yous, it really put things into perspective. All of the gifts are donated-brand new toys, books, games and clothes, toiletries and food. Scarves, hats, mitts, socks, jackets, new runners.
What I was part of today is something that has a real impact on people’s lives.
The smiles on the kids faces when I handed them juice boxes and granola bars while they were in the waiting room with their mothers, were priceless. The excitement I felt when I found a size 10 pair of runners-the last pair-for a single father of three standing before me, wearing orthotics and shoes with holes in them, was unreal. The fact that these families will now have full bellies and presents to open on Christmas morning is just as it should be.

“These people have names. These people have families. These people have hearts, and unless you come face to face with them and understand where they are coming from, it is really hard to conceive whom they are. These are people…”

I think that’s what can be forgotten. Keira posted an entry last week in which she described the way that people can be painted with one brush. She wrote,
They are generalized; they are one face…” How true. Working there today amongst the faces and stories of so many of these individuals, gratefully accepting more than they ever imagined receiving this Christmas, was truly something special. Being the emotional creature that I am, I fought tears several times while interacting with the families. Seeing the difference that UGM makes first hand gave me a clarity impossible to describe. The sincere gratitude and warm hugs I experienced on the part of those being reached out to was worth more than anything in the universe.

UGM is able to bring hope and help to a handful of our city
‘s less fortunate. For ways that you can give this holiday season, click here.

A life uncommon…

Photos courtesy of jeweljk.com

On my French 12 provincial exam, we were asked to write an essay about one living person we had never met, who has impacted our life, and with whom we would want to go to dinner. At that time, I chose to write about Jewel Kilcher. I could think of no one better for an evening of chitchat than somebody whose political, creative and artistic views I respect so much. Jewel has been inspiring me since I first saw her play out at The Massey Theatre in New Westminster when I was about 14 years old. It was a teeny, tiny, and non glamourous venue. There was this blonde girl on stage with an acoustic guitar, being honest and telling stories, making us laugh and cry. I felt like I could relate to everything she was saying. I can remember being blown away by her voice and I was instantly captivated by her stage presence and charisma. Over the years, I have enjoyed Jewel’s work and have been influenced to a large degree by her albums, books and projects. As a writer, she has grown enormously with each new project that she has taken on. A few years ago, I took my dad to see her play an acoustic show at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre. It was an intensely personal and intimate performance. My dad became an instant fan. The woman knows how to entertain a crowd and she was at once provocative and down to earth.
Perhaps what attracts me to Jewel as an artist is that I could always see a bit of myself in her. She sang about many of the same insecurities, ideals and ideas that I spent hours writing about and contemplating. It’s comforting to feel like somebody else is experiencing the same kinds of thoughts and emotions and asking the same questions that you are. I certainly found comfort in this music, and I continue to. She was inspired herself by many of the same writers who I have looked up to; Nin, Bukowski, Plato. And songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. She’s not afraid to admit to her struggles and the ups and downs that are inevitable in this life. I have a great respect for that. And for staying committed to this journey on the road of life.
Not content to relegate herself to a traditional music arena, or to be typecast, Jewel has established herself as a culturally significant and relevant brand. Author, songwriter, actress, poet-there are no limits to how Jewel can and will deliver her message. The underlining truth that ties it all together is the integrity of that message. Jewel’s lyrics speak to me on a level that few other artists are capable of reaching. She allows herself to be vulnerable, she is a human being, no doubt. She’s learning and growing and figuring things out…just like the rest of us.

Jewel got her first record deal when she was 20 years old and living in a blue Volkswagon bus, now here she is multiplatinum and multifaceted. She excels at weaving her introspective lyrics with fresh and exciting songwriting.

As a public figure, she has also raised awareness for some important issues. I applaud her willingness to step out and support these causes. Check out these links to the projects that Jewel is involved with:

Clear Water Project
Doctors Without Borders

And her most recent project:
Virgin Unite: Homeless Youth Among Us


“Reading made me feel connected to the world,” she explains. “The writers I returned to again and again were the ones that were brutally honest, willing to show themselves as heroic at times, grotesque at others. Anais Nin, Charles Bukowski, these were heroes to me.” Heartfelt songwriting became not only an emotional outlet, but a means of survival. During Spring Break one year she took a train and hitchhiked in Mexico, earning money as a street-corner minstrel. “I made up lyrics everywhere I went and eventually it turned into a very long song about what I saw around me,” she recalls. “I made it back to school two weeks later with an unformed song called Who Will Save Your Soul.” She was sixteen at the time and had no idea that that song would, a mere three years later, become the first single from her first album, offering not just a day’s meal ticket, but meteoric success.

You can check out some of Jewel’s new music as well as some older masterpieces on her Myspace page here.

Jewel’s Christmas album called Joy: A Holiday Collection is also one of my favourites. I pulled it out on the weekend and it has been spinning in my cd player ever since.