An online wish list is helping share stories of people in need who could benefit from the kindness of strangers this holiday season.
The Regina Christmas Wish List started 13 years ago after a local minister heard about a similar, smaller-scale, project in Vancouver.
“We heard that a group in Calgary took it and grew it a little bit and a colleague and I looked at each other and thought, ‘Regina could use this,’” said Jason Bandura, minister at Glen Elm Church of Christ.
With the help of local organizations dedicated to helping impoverished and marginalized people, Bandura has grown the project into an annual tradition.
The organizations help identify individuals and families who are open to sharing their stories on the site, allowing them to receive a personalized gift at Christmas.
“Now I can read the story of a stranger and pieces of their life feel like pieces of my life, and I realize the gap between them and me isn’t that much,” said Bandura, adding the asks are often simple.
“They’re frequently winter clothes – be it coats or boots, toques, mitts, scarves – things that some households have boxes of that we pull out every winter.”
One person on this year’s list asked for a deck of cards and a bottle of ginger ale.
Among those who shared their stories are 35 people experiencing chronic homelessness, and who are currently receiving services from Phoenix Residential Society.
“The nature of the people we work with, they don’t have a lot of supports in the community, there’s often strained family relationships,” said Mallory Sprawson, a supervisor with the organization.
Sprawson said the wish list gifts are most often the only ones their clients receive.
“Having them be able to open a Christmas gift they asked for – that somebody took the time to purchase for them – it’s lovely to see,” Sprawson said.
There are 160 stories posted this year, amounting to more than 350 gifts for individuals and families. Half of those have already received pledges from anonymous donors.
The deadline for pledging and dropping off gifts at Glen Elm Church of Christ is Thursday, Dec. 19.
Since its inception, more than 5,200 personalized gifts have been shared between total strangers.