Connecting with Chilliwack’s most needy

This year’s Chilliwack Connect event could attract more than 400 participants to First Avenue Christian Assembly, said Coun. Stewart McLean, a member of the planning team.

Everything will be given freely on Oct. 15 and nothing is expected in return.

This year’s Chilliwack Connect event could attract more than 400 participants to First Avenue Christian Assembly, said Coun. Stewart McLean, a member of the planning team.

“It’s a life-changing experience for some people who take part,” said he said. “It can give them some focus or a new direction to go in.”

The idea behind the community-driven event is simple: connect the homeless, working poor, or those at risk of becoming homeless with a cornucopia of donated goods, services and resource people.

A hot meal, a hair cut, child care, a hygiene pack and gently used clothes are some of what will be made available at no cost to participants.

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 as she had been that day.

“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 if possible to connect them with the resource people they’re looking for.”

Everything at Chilliwack Connect is the result of more than 150 volunteers and 20 organizing team members, and sponsors, from the faith community, non-profit sector, and various levels of government.

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.

All participants get a door prize ticket and they all stand to  win some sort of prize during the day, as well as a shopping 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.”

The atmosphere is purposely relaxed, and no one is forced to do anything they don’t care to.

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