'We are full': Calgary group desperate for warehouse space for Syrian refugee donations

With more Syrian refugees arriving in Calgary over the next few months, a group that collects donations for them says it's desperately in need of a place to store and distribute them.

'When I show you my basement, you can’t even get through'

Currently volunteers are storing hundreds of donations in their homes 0:41

With more Syrian refugees arriving in Calgary over the next few months, a group that collects donations for them says it's desperately in need of a place to store and distribute them.

"I am at capacity," Gina Eaton told CBC News Saturday.

"When I show you my basement, you can't even get through."

Eaton is a volunteer with the Syrian Refugee Support Group.

Gina Eaton's house is full of donations for Syrian refugees. A Calgary group is hoping a property owner will come forward and offer them a warehouse space to accept, process and distribute the generosity of Calgarians. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Last December, a generous and anonymous donor gave the group a warehouse where donations could be stored, processed and distributed — but it was originally a three-month offer.

The group's co-founder, Saima Jamal, says volunteers have picked up the slack since the offer ended.

Gina Eaton's basement is overflowing with donated bikes for Syrian children. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"We knew it was for three months, but at our request he did extend it to four-and-a-half months," Jamal explained.

"Since April when the warehouse closed, at least six to 10 volunteers all over the city have been storing donations in their garages, in their basements, in empty space in their houses."

Saima Jamal, the group's co-founder, says currently there are up to 10 volunteers storing hundreds of donations - but it's not a long-term solution. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Jamal says the homes of those volunteers are now overflowing.

'Facebook became a virtual warehouse, that's how we have been operating for the last nine months," she said.

Eaton says some of donations are seasonal items, like bikes.

"The basement is full of bikes," Eaton said with a laugh.

"I was lucky to find a couple of bike mechanics that take the bikes that are donated to make sure that they are safe. The kids have been through horrific conditions.

"I just think it's wonderful if every child could have a bike."

The group says, in their perfect world, a warehouse of about 5,000 square feet with a loading dock in northeast Calgary near public transit would tick all the boxes.

Volunteer Gina Eaton has about 40 boxes of donations in her house on top of a basement full of bikes. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"We are making an urgent plea to all Calgarians, if someone can donate it to us for three to five months, please let us know," Jamal said.

She adds they would happily work out some sort of reduced-rent arrangement if possible and raise funds to cover the costs.

"We are so desperate for warehouse space it is just mindboggling," Eaton said.

Eaton said the group helps many more than what the name would imply.

"We don't just help Syrian refugees," she said.

"If you know anyone who has come into the country and had a very difficult landing, because it is not an easy process, if we hear of a person in need, we help, period."

With files from Terri Trembath