Good Neighbours: Real estate agent's gift of mobility moves thousands

A real estate agent’s simple act of charity has helped change the lives of 7,000 people in developing nations.

Since 2007, Michele Holmes has donated more than 700 new custom-made wheelchairs, with an estimated value of $100,000, to the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation. The foundation recently honoured Holmes for being the single largest donor to their cause.

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“She is the most unassuming donor,” said Linda Whitehead, head of strategic development at the Canadian charity. “But she is, by far, our largest single contributor among our 6,000 donors.”

The foundation estimates that more than 100 million people throughout the world are in need of a wheelchair but cannot afford one as they live in moderate or extreme poverty. A wheelchair is their only hope for mobility and independence.

Holmes was touched when she heard about the plight of people with physical disabilities throughout the world who were without mobility or the means to acquire a wheelchair. Some had languished in their homes all of their lives because they had no way to get out and around.

“I decided that I would donate a wheelchair for every house I sold,” said Holmes, who is the owner of Holmes Realty in Sidney.

Her gifts change not only the life of the recipient, but those of the people around them.

“The donation of one wheelchair positively impacts the lives of 10 people directly connected to the recipient,” Whitehead said. “So Michele’s amazing generosity has touched more than 7,000 people. This is truly an amazing legacy.”

While the milestone is significant to both Holmes and the foundation, it is not the end of the story.

“My goal is to donate 1,000 wheelchairs,” said Holmes, who has been involved in real estate for more than 29 years.

For more information, go to cdnwheelchair.ca.

$10,000 raised for Philippines

Beacon Community Services has raised $10,000 for the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts in the Philippines. Last month, staff and volunteers donated their time and the proceeds of sales from one day from all of the agency’s seven thrift stores.

Many people also made cash donations at the stores.

“It was important for our staff and volunteers to provide support to their Filipino friends and co-workers during this difficult time. We are all grateful for the tremendous participation from the community which helped make the day a success,” said Isobel Mackenzie, CEO of the not-for-profit service agency.

The Government of Canada and the Province of B.C. have pledged to match individual donations until Dec. 9.

Beacon Community Services is a community-based agency that offers a wide range of programs and services to clients in the Capital Regional District.

For more information, go to beaconcs.ca.

Dinner group seeks a few good turkeys

Wanted: 45 to 50 turkeys needed to feed a hungry crowd of 900. Birds missing wings or other appendages welcome.

The organizers behind the 23rd annual Christmas Spirit Community Dinner are missing the main ingredient for their dinner, which takes place on Christmas Day.

“We’re looking for people who have a spare bird they can donate,” said Christina Parkhurst, the organizer of the dinner.

The popular dinner, with hot turkey and an array of homemade desserts and beverages, is open to anyone who is low on funds or wants a family-oriented Christmas Day.

Students at the Arbutus Global Middle School are also putting together stocking stuffers for adults. People can also become a Secret Santa by donating $35 for a gift for a child.

As for the turkeys, Parkhurst says she is looking for large, so-called “Frankenbirds,” utility-grade birds that may be missing a limb or two — and therefore cheaper to purchase.

She estimates she will need approximately $4,000 to buy enough birds for the 900 people she will feed.

She has a freezer to store donations. She can give tax receipts for cash donations.

The dinner offers two sittings, noon and 3 p.m. Advance registration is required. Outdoor barbecue also available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or while supplies last. The meals will be served at the Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church, 1800 Quadra St.

For more information, go to christmasspiritdinner.ca or 250-472-1040.

Culinary tour to benefit Mustard Seed food bank

A local culinary tour company called Off the Eaten Track has pledged to donate the proceeds of an upcoming tour to benefit the Mustard Seed.

The company’s Tuesday holiday culinary tour highlights the Fort Street neighbourhood.

Guests will be treated to more than 15 tasting samples and the opportunity to shop for unique and tasty gifts. It will stop at the Little Cheese Shop, Choux Choux Charcuterie, Chorizo & Co. and Hook Fine.

“We wanted to give back to our community and help those that might be in need over the holiday season,” said Alexis Ragan, co-owner of the company.

The tour costs $45 and runs 2:30 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday until Dec. 19.

For more information, go to offtheeatentracktours.ca/victoria.

Cleaners raising money for SPCA

Merry Maids is holding a bottle drive with a difference. From now until Jan. 3, cleaners will collect bottles and spare change left by customers at the homes that they clean — as well as from the community.

Accounts have also been set up for donations at the Bottle Depot and Alpine Group recycling centres under Merry Maids of Victoria. Proceeds will benefit the Victoria Branch of the B.C. SPCA.

“We chose the SPCA because it is a beloved cause for many of our team members,” said Matt Tanner of Merry Maids of Victoria.

“Also, pets are important members of many of the homes we clean. We wanted to show our gratitude to our community by supporting a cause that is meaningful to so many families.”

For more information, go to merrymaidsvictoria.com/spca.

Stuff the Stocking at Cridge Centre

Visitors are invited to enjoy a cup of cheer and some Christmas music Friday while they stop by to make a donation to the Stuff the Stocking event at the Cridge Centre at 1307 Hillside Ave.

The non-profit society provides childcare, low-income housing, senior’s housing and women’s services.

A stocking will be hung on the fireplace mantle, from 8 to 11 a.m. in the lounge of the senior’s centre, for people to put in a monetary gift to support the centre’s “respitality service.”

Anyone unable to attend who would still like to donate can call 250-995-6419. For more information, go to cridge.org.

Star Sunday offers true holiday spirit

Experience an afternoon filled with the true spirit of Christmas at the St. Barnabas Anglican Church Star Sunday Christmas crafting event.

The afternoon begins with the sights and sounds of a crackling fire and an outdoor waffle stall. Inside children can learn to make appealing gifts, including beeswax candles, transparent origami stars, a wooden manger, scented bath salts and cards.

“So much of the Christmas season is filled with garish glitter, noise and synthetic materials,” said Travis O’Brian, rector of St. Barnabas. “We hope that Star Sunday will offer a time of beauty and pleasure in the midst of all those distractions.”

Admission is free, though donations are welcome. The event runs 3 to 5 p.m. in the church hall, at the corner of Begbie Street and Belmont Avenue. Children of all ages are welcome.

For more information, go to stbarnabaschurch.ca.

Enjoy sounds of the season at singalong

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church is holding a Christmas Carol Sing-Along on Thursday at noon.

The carol singalong will feature Aline Dumalski on violin and vocals by students of Sound Fundamentals Music.

Doors open 11:45 a.m. and the event ends at 1:15 p.m. at the church, corner of Douglas and Broughton streets.

For information, call 250-384-5734 or go to standrewsvictoria.ca.

Students blitz for Langford food bank

Students from Belmont Secondary School worked hard to meet their goal of collecting 10,000 items or more non-perishable food items in one night for the Goldstream Food Bank last week.

In fact, they worked so hard during Wednesday’s 10,000 Tonight campaign — going door-to-door in a four-hour blitz — that they collected 19,000 items to fill the food bank’s shelves.

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