Chilliwack Connect on Oct. 3 is a day of connection, pampering and support for those in our community who need it most.
Brought to Chilliwack in 2010, the annual event has since linked hundreds of people in need with services to improve their lives. Centralized under one roof, service providers stem from healthcare, outreach and advocacy, employment or financial counselling, day-care and more.
Chilliwack Connect is for anyone who is struggling, whether they are homeless, new to the city, or low-income working parents.
Richard Niezen and the entire Chilliwack Connect Committee have worked hard to provide access to as many resources as possible.
“When people arrive, they’ll be paired up with one of about 200 volunteers”, says Niezen. The one-one-one connection ensures that each guest gets the most of the day.
Volunteers help guests get registered, set up with appointments and appropriate services, and hooked up with all of the free amenities.
“Let’s make it work for you,” says Niezen.
For some, Chilliwack Connect is life-changing.
Support from services like the Ann Davis Transition Society, the Salvation Army, GT Hiring Solutions or others can help guests make positive changes for their future.
“It’s a day of pampering, too,” says Niezen. There’s free hair washing, cutting and styling, as well as foot care and make-up stations.
“It’s a really special day for the guests,” Niezen remarks. “They’re in a safe environment, and we don’t ask anything of them. We support them.”
This true community initiative is run on volunteer labour and personal and corporate donations.
“We’ve had amazing support from local businesses”, said Niezen, as he began to list the many organizations, like Hofstede’s Country Barn and Meadow Valley Meats, who have donated their time, support, or products over the years.
While guests experience all that the event has to offer, their kids can enjoy activities and snacks in the Little Footsteps Child Care, their belongings can be safely stored on-site, and they can even get their bicycles serviced.
Precious memories will be made as guests share a table, unleash their creativity at the art station, or take home a professional family or individual portrait.
And, of course, a continental breakfast and a hot, hearty roast beef lunch will ensure that everyone is well-fed.
Niezen, a chef by trade, recalls standing in the gym during the first year of Chilliwack Connect, just after they’d served lunch to all the guests.
“It was exhausting,” he began, “but it was absolutely amazing to see this huge group of people, enjoying a meal, smiling and laughing and talking to each other.”
Thanks to the outstanding community support, no one will go home empty handed. There are racks of free clothing, footwear and warm blankets to pick from, and everyone will receive a gift bag filled with hygiene products, snacks, and other donated items.
If you would like to support this event, donations can be made at gofundme.com/chilliwackconnect.
Chilliwack Connect takes place on Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the First Avenue Christian Assembly (46510 First Ave).