As we get closer to the end of the deadliest year of the opioid crisis in the province, members of the advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm are honouring the memory of those we’ve lost by putting up Christmas trees in shelters in both Kelowna and West Kelowna.
“Every ball, every name and star that’s added to these trees, we know there’s a heartbroken family out there,” said Helen Jennens with Moms Stop The Harm.
The white Christmas trees are adorned with purple ornaments, the colour for those raising awareness about opioid deaths — a colour that could be resonating with more people as the opioid crisis continues to take its toll on the Okanagan.
There were 143 overdose deaths in the Okanagan up until the end of October. In 2020, there were 147 overdoses in the Okanagan.
“We know that drug harms are worse in the winter as people are more uncomfortable,” said jennens.
“The toxic market for drugs has just gotten more and more lethal, so we’re going to see those numbers climb.”
The effort from the advocacy group does not go unnoticed. People in the shelter are encouraged to add the names of those they have lost to the tree and staff champion the project.
“I want to say thank you to the community for coming together here and helping us out here,” said Trevor Davies, Community Outreach. “It’s not easy work but it’s worth it and I love it.”
While setting up the tree at the Kelowna Gospel Mission’s Doyle Avenue shelter, two young residents asked to help decorate the tree.
“You can really tell they were appreciative,” said Phillip Whatman, Kelowna Gospel Mission shelter manager.
The Moms Stop the Harm advocacy group isn’t finished their holiday tour just yet. On Dec. 23 they will be dropping off boxes of chocolate for each person in the shelter so that they can have something special to look forward to on Christmas Eve.
— with files from Kathy Michaels