The pandemic in 2020 took a huge toll on people. Many members of our community struggled, losing their jobs, becoming unable to provide for their families, impacting physical and mental health. People withdrew from each other, loneliness increased, and homelessness was exacerbated as fewer reached out to help them. The Calgary Drop-In Centre is trying to bridge the gap.
I recently went to the Drop-In Centre to donate some blankets as part of a drive held in Airdrie with Day to Give Back, a nonprofit I started in honour of my Dad, Yad Chowhan, who modeled the art of giving for me and taught me the value of giving back to my community. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with an employee at the Centre. He mentioned how the Drop-In Centre is trying to help and get people to interact and start to lend out that helping hand again.
“There's not enough support from the public. There aren't even enough towels and blankets during the brutally cold Alberta winters,” said the employee.
As I held my boxes of donated towels and blankets, I saw the number of people struggling outside the Drop-In Centre. Being a public relations student, I was particularly curious about the communication methods used by the Drop-In Centre, realizing how communication is so important to the success of any nonprofit. The employee and I talked about community engagement such as the use of volunteers, community events, and fundraisers. I also asked about how the Centre increased visibility and raised awareness in the community so people could reach out and get involved. The employee shared that the Drop-In Centre uses social media a lot to ask for help, whether it's for donations of items or to recruit volunteers.
“Social media has been making a difference,” he said. “With the help of social media, and apps such as Instagram, we can post what we are in need of, and the people who see it usually can repost and share and help spread the word and bring those items to the Drop-In Centre. Actively posting on Instagram has been effective when trying to get community engagement.”
The Drop-In Centre also uses community engagement to educate others on the cause, such as going to schools and inviting them to volunteer at the kitchen and other areas. Another form of public relations is hosting fundraisers as well as partnering with other organizations.
The Calgary Drop-In Centre also uses “Chuck's Story” on their website to help people relate and understand the struggle. The story gives people an insight of what goes on with people who deal with homelessness. When other people understand the struggle of homelessness, it helps the community work together and it becomes easier for the Drop-In Centre to bridge that gap in our society. “Chuck’s Story” illustrates how the Centre cares for and helps people.
The Calgary Drop-In Centre’s goal is for their clients to not have to be with them for a long time. As mentioned on their website: “We hope their time with us is as short as possible.”
As I dropped off the blankets and towels, I reflected on what my Dad modeled for me. For him, giving was natural and continual; it wasn’t just a one-time effort. I saw how the Drop-In Centre was the same. Bridging the gap and serving people in need isn’t just a one-time event for them -- it’s an ongoing commitment for any in need. I was prompted that this would not be just my one-time donation and effort to help the Calgary Drop-In Centre, and that I would be back.
Day to Give Back team
makes a delivery to Calgary Drop-In Centre.
Photos by K. Chowhan