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Connecting with Chilliwack's most needy

Everything will be given away for free on Oct. 15 and nothing is expected in return.

The second Chilliwack Connect event could attract more than 400 participants this year to First Avenue Christian Assembly

The idea behind the community-driven event running all day Saturday is simple: connect the homeless, working poor, or those at risk of being on the streets, with a cornucopia of donated goods, services and resource people.

A hot meal, a hair cut, child care, and some gently used clothes are available at no cost to participants, as result of the work of more than 150 volunteers and 20 organizing team members from the faith community, and non-profit sector, to various levels of government.

"It's a life-changing experience for some," said Coun. Stewart McLean, a member of the Chilliwack Connect planning team. "It can give people focus and a direction to go in."

Volunteers are paired with individuals as soon as they register to help them navigate the various kiosks and agencies on hand that may have information they need.

Last year a single mom of five kids told the city councillor that "no one" had ever treated her so well in her whole life.

"It's one of those things where it just feels like the right thing to do," McLean said. "The idea is that we're there to serve them as our guests for the day and possible connect them with the resource people they're looking for."

All participants get a door prize ticket and they all win some sort of prize during the day, as well as a bag full of hygiene products and other donated items.

"Their faces just light up. So many people told me last year they had never won anything before," he said. "Those experiences impact you emotionally."

But the atmosphere is purposely relaxed, and no one is forced to do anything.

The second ever Chilliwack Connect event is set for Oct. 15, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the First Avenue Christian Assembly.

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