Alanna Blanchette’s car is filled with clothing destined for The Mustard Seed to help clothe the homeless in Edmonton. Photo courtesy Alanna Blanchette

St. Joseph’s students embrace Christmas spirit

By 
  • November 24, 2021

The spirit of Christmas giving arrived early this year in Edmonton, with the St. Joseph’s College Catholic Students’ Association at the University of Alberta collecting clothing to keep dozens of homeless people a little warmer this winter.

Thanks to the canny promotional and outreach efforts of its student leadership team, the group’s inaugural winter clothing drive on behalf of The Mustard Seed homeless support centre amassed some impressive numbers. Students collected 65 hoodies, 52 pairs of mittens, 48 toques, 40 coats, 32 scarves, 27 pairs of socks, 11 pairs of boots/shoes and ski pants, nine pairs of sweat pants and five pairs of thermal pants.

Alanna Blanchette, one of the association’s two social justice coordinators, was among the drivers behind this initiative that kicked off the group’s 2021-2022 slate of events.

“I was looking to identify a group in the community to help out and I saw on social media that The Mustard Seed was specifically (seeking) clothes to keep people warm during the winter,” said Blanchette. “I know that our parish is very big, and our parishioners are so generous that this would be effective to give back and it would fit with Catholic social teaching.”

Blanchette raised awareness for the venture by drafting posts for the association’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, composing a message for the student newsletter and making in-Mass announcements at the school chapel. She also liaised with personnel inside The Mustard Seed, which is where physical donations are made, to draft posters to be hung at the parish and on campus.

This collection effort was a two-and-a-half-week operation from just after Thanksgiving up until the first week of November. Donation baskets were situated outside of the St. Joseph’s College Catholic Chapel and the residential buildings outside the faith-oriented liberal arts college.

Blanchette, who graduated this past spring with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, stuffed the trunk of her vehicle with the haul and delivered it to The Mustard Seed. She said staff were very impressed with the student association’s contribution.

“They were very grateful, and they had asked, ‘how do you have so much stuff?’ So, I explained this isn’t just me. I’m just the messenger. This is because of the generosity of the parishioners, students and their families.”

The Mustard Seed staff explained to Blanchette that the donations would be allocated among the charity’s several support buildings scattered throughout the provincial capital. Members of the city’s homeless population can then enter the building and simply request the clothing items they need to navigate an always tough Edmonton winter.

While cognizant that some Catholic youth might not be in a position to mobilize the same scale of community-giving initiative, Blanchette hopes students can strive to be altruistic as the Advent season begins.

“We all have gifts of some sort — time, talent and treasure — that can be used to make things better. It can be visiting grandparents, making special gifts for someone or donating a special item of yours. A little bit goes a long way,” she said.

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