Bringing the true meaning of Christmas to Calgary’s homeless

WATCH: As Jill Croteau reports, a Calgary charity is making a simple gesture that means the world.

It’s the season of giving and a time to be reminded about those who have so little. A unique Calgary-based charity is inspiring strangers to invest in one very simple gesture that costs absolutely nothing.

‘Make It Merry’ was created by Barb Brittain-Marshall.

“It occurred to me as I was walking through the Drop-In Centre: when would have been the last time these folks have received a Christmas card?” Brittain-Marshall recalled.

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The self-confessed stationary hoarder and lover of the lost art of handwriting knew she was onto something. She started with a modest goal of collecting 80 cards – signed and delivered to the homeless. That first year, she received almost 1,200 from all over the country.

“It reminds me there really isn’t much difference between me and someone homeless, and I learn something from them in every interaction.”

“I think it’s so important in the hustle and bustle of the season we don’t forget the true meaning of it.”

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It’s a small but very devoted team. Many volunteer to write and review the cards before they’re gifted to the homeless.

Volunteer Barb Lennox knew from the very start she wanted to help.

Volunteer Anne Lennox and creator Barb Brittain-Marshall review stacks of cards.
Volunteer Anne Lennox and creator Barb Brittain-Marshall review stacks of cards. Jill Croteau

“I was struck when we vetted these cards. The compassion and the thoughtfulness demonstrated by children and adolescents really surprised me,” Lennox said. “Knowing they were never going to meet the recipient but would say things…so kind.”

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Pat Brown is part of the Make It Merry team. The retired elementary school principal sees the value of recruiting students to take part.

“Often people who are homeless are the invisible minority,” Brown said. “And when we can teach children that we can turn around and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ That connection is critical.”

Tracey Palmer fell on hard times and is living at a homeless shelter. She admits holidays are particularly hard.

“It’s been tough, but we’re surviving,” Palmer said. “If you didn’t look outside and see Christmas lights, you wouldn’t know it’s Christmas.”

But being on the receiving end of a card is such an invaluable gift.

“It chokes me up. It’s nice to know there are people out there who care.”

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