Syrian refugee donation site at old Rona store closing
Financial donations and gift cards still needed, says ISANS
The drop-off site at the old Rona store in Bayers Lake for donations to support Syrian refugees is closing because there are now more than enough items for the newcomers.
"It's a good thing and if you look around here you can see why. The generosity of Nova Scotians has been amazing," said Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.
Mills says ISANS will be collecting financial donations through their website, as well as gift cards.
"Grocery cards would be really useful to be able to give to each family one when they arrive," she said.
- Syrian refugee donation centre in Bayers Lake to close Jan. 5
- Syrian refugee donations overwhelm Nova Scotia drop-off organizers
Enough for everyone
The province says as of Tuesday, the centre has received 4,000 bags of clothing, 1,500 jackets, 75 high chairs and strollers, and hundreds of pieces of furniture and household items.
The 211 phone line logged 2,819 calls offering support over seven weeks, an average of 57 a day. Just under half were offers for material goods and 35 per cent were offers of volunteer support.
Well over 5,000 people dropped off donations. More than 350 people volunteered at the donation centre, with as many as 52 on some days.
100 Syrians and counting
Nova Scotia is looking to settle around 1,500 Syrian refugees and as of Tuesday there were about 100 in the province.
"The number 1,500 has been mentioned, but I don't think it's a hard number at this point," said Diana Whalen, MLA for Clayton Park West and the province's justice minister.
"We want to welcome as many as we can with open arms. A lot depends on how many are assigned to Nova Scotia and how many private sponsorships we do in this province.
"Closing early here is a sign of how generous Nova Scotians have been. We opened December 12 and it's phenomenal [what] has been donated by Nova Scotians."
Mills said volunteers have been a big help in getting the old Rona store ready.
"I came here a few weeks ago and all I could see was absolute chaos. It was just bags," she said.
"Now it's in such order. Volunteers have done that. Every day they've come up here and sort through this. They've been amazing."
Marilyn Price volunteered seven times. The retired teacher helped organize all the school supplies.
"I just think that we're very lucky here in Canada. I could be one of the refugees and what I would feel like if I needed things like these people do," said Price.
Sulaiman Al-Isawi, 17, spent the day volunteering too. He knows what it's like to be a newcomer. His family immigrated to Canada from Iraq.
"I like to help people. I'm happy to help people. I'm Muslim and it's my job to help people," he said.
Other non-profits to benefit
Mills said anything that isn't used will be given to other non-profits.
"If charities are interested, the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, if charities call there, they can list their name and information will be provided to them on when the stuff is accessible," said Mills.
"We understand refugees are in the media right now. We have not received this kind of response to the refugees probably since the Vietnamese situation."
There were plenty of donors dropping off some last minute items. Ella, Ireland and Brendan McDonald hope kids their age will get some enjoyment out of what they brought.
"My bike is fairly new," said Ireland McDonald. "It's in good shape so we thought we would bring it here. I hope somebody younger than me sees it and is like, 'Oh an opportunity, a new bike.'"
"I had some shirts and clothing that was getting too small for me and a lot of it was fairly new. I hope a boy my age or less will get it," said Brendan McDonald.