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Osoyoos Gift Cupboard brings out the best in many and the worst in a few

Osoyoos Gift Cupboard brings out the best in many and the worst in a few
The Osoyoos Gift Cupboard was vandalized last week and a solar light was smashed. Some of the items inside were also damaged. (Photo supplied)

The Osoyoos Gift Cupboard was vandalized last week and a solar light was smashed. Some of the items inside were also damaged. (Photo supplied)

The Osoyoos Gift Cupboard has brought out the best of many people, but also the worst in a few.

The three local women behind the cupboard, which provides free items to those who need them, have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community.

But on Wednesday morning when Brenda Dorosz and Gaye Horn went to check on the cupboard outside the Osoyoos Art Gallery, they were horrified to see it had been vandalized.

Someone had taken a knife or wire cutters and cut down a solar powered light and thrown pieces around. Some of the items inside were also damaged.

“This wanton act is beyond understanding as the cupboard contents are free to any who need what we provide,” Horn wrote on Facebook. “So I am slightly irritated 1,000 times by this maladjusted behaviour.”

The third woman behind the Gift Cupboard, Jen Shiels, was not there when the other two discovered the damage.

Dorosz said she doesn’t think that whoever vandalized the cupboard did it because they object to the idea.

“I think it’s maybe just people out drunk, walking home from the bars kind of thing,” she said. “We’re not going to let that stop us, for sure. We’ll just keep going.”

There were large footprints in the snow suggesting that the person or persons involved were adults, she said.

The project has hit other bumps when some people have emptied it of all its donated personal items.

Dorosz said the women have talked to one older woman and one family they believed were hoarding items from the box and since then the situation has improved.

“We seem to have it under control after we spoke to a couple of individuals,” she said. “We were very nice about it, just telling them that if they need something, take what they need and leave the rest for others.”

But overshadowing the few that have abused the Gift Cupboard are the many who have donated generously.

Some are businesses giving donations of cash or products. Some are individuals making cash donations or dropping off items at collection boxes in businesses such as Unity Osoyoos and the Osoyoos Times. Most contact the three women directly to donate.

Beyond Beauty recently collected donations from customers for the cupboard throughout December. The Osoyoos Seniors Centre also took up a collection.

Many who donate have asked not to be named.

“We decided we’re going to call them ‘Earth Angels,’ all these people donating to us,” said Dorosz.

The project has also generated other good deeds in the community only indirectly related to the Gift Cupboard.

“The cupboard has blossomed in more ways than we ever imagined,” said Dorosz.

Although the cupboard doesn’t handle food items, Dorosz said a number of people have wanted to give food and they’ve been directed to the Osoyoos Food Bank.

Both Horn and Dorosz have helped homeless people with items such as sleeping bags, Tim Horton gift cards, socks, toques and mitts.

“People don’t necessarily know who we are,” she said. “We walk up to them and give them things.”

On Christmas, the women learned about a family with a four-year-old girl who had received a hamper from the Osoyoos Food Bank, but were unable to give anything to their little girl.

“We sprang into action on Christmas night,” said Dorosz. “The family was struggling. We went through the cupboards and put together some things and then on Boxing Day morning we went.”

Jamie Elder from Unity Osoyoos also stepped forward with some clothing items.

“They were able to surprise their daughter and the little girl had a nice Christmas,” said Dorosz.

“I admit I was crying as we got hugs from this little child and her parents,” Dorosz wrote on Facebook. “They were so thankful that a stranger had given them the gifts for their child.”

The mother later expressed profuse thanks on the Osoyoos Loop page on Facebook.

“I am in tears because I’ve never had this happen,” she wrote. “It has truly been an amazing Christmas. This year has been a little bit on the harder side… The town of Osoyoos has been absolutely amazing and has helped us out in a huge way… I’ve lived in the Lower Mainland for most of my life and to be honest, nothing like this ever happens there.”

She added that she wants to pay forward to others the generosity she received when she is able.

Dorosz said the three women are meeting to discuss how they can move forward with the project, including the possibility of forming a nonprofit society.

They are undeterred by the vandalism and don’t want to install video surveillance because this might deter some people who need items in the cupboard from using it.

“We want people to know that the vandalism has happened, but we’re all going to come together as a community and watch for these people,” said Dorosz. “It’s not going to stop us in any way. We are helping a lot of people and we can tell by what’s being taken on a daily basis that we are helping a lot of families.”

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

The new Osoyoos Gift Cupboard was unveiled Sunday next to the Osoyoos Art Gallery. The cupboard is expected to be mounted to a permanent stand later this week. It contains donated items ranging from toiletries to notebooks and playing cards and people will be able to help themselves to what they need. The Gift Cupboard had the unanimous support of Osoyoos Town Council and it received a $500 grant from the Community Foundation of South Okanagan-Similkameen. Pictured are the three women responsible for the project, (from left) Jen Shiels, Gaye Horn and Brenda Dorosz. (Richard McGuire photo)

Jen Shiels, Gaye Horn and Brenda Dorosz unveil the Gift Cupboard in October. The community has been generous and people have used it. (Richard McGuire file photo)

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