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Lilly's selfless gift stands out

Elaine-Paul600x400January, 2015 - Giving to others occurs at the Lookout Society on a daily basis. But sometimes one act of giving stands out among the rest.

That’s certainly true with Lilly, a transitional housing tenant at the Yukon Housing Centre, who gave her Christmas gift to a friend and fellow tenant.

Lilly is a confidant and friend to many staying at the Yukon, a person you go to with your problems. In one of those discussions, Lilly’s heartstrings were tugged by her friend’s pain: she couldn’t afford to go home and spend Christmas with her children.

So when Lilly was asked what her Christmas wish was by Homeless Partners, a non-profit that encourages donors to grant Christmas wishes for formally homeless individuals, she didn’t hesitate.

“She needed the gift more than I did. It was so important for my friend to get home,” said Lilly.

The gift was a return bus ticket to Burns Lake, in the B.C. Interior. Lilly even threw in a $100 London Drugs gift certificate the donor purchased. That way her friend could buy Christmas gifts for her children.

Thankfully the story and the giving didn’t end there.

 “Giving away her gift like she did… that’s very special. Lilly is an amazing woman.” 

Elaine Tanner, a former Canadian Olympian, heard about the Christmas wish-granting program and wanted to donate a gift to someone. Unfortunately, Homeless Partners didn’t require any more donors – all the wishes were already granted.

Fortunately Elaine contacted Lookout Society’s executive director Shayne Williams and asked if there were any tenants who needed a Christmas wish granted.

Lilly, who’s act of giving had melted the hearts of Yukon staff, tenants and shelter guests, was the obvious choice. Linda Fox, Yukon’s manager, knew Lilly really wanted a laptop computer to replace one stolen while she was temporarily homeless.

So Elaine, who earned the name Mighty Mouse after winning three medals in the swimming pool at the 1968 Summer Olympics, started things off with a large cash donation towards the laptop. Lookout Society staff and management kicked in the rest – everyone inspired to give after Lilly’s selfless act.

Elaine saw the need for Lilly’s gift to come full circle.

“After hearing what she had done, I knew we had to do something in return,” said Elaine.

“Giving away her gift like she did… that’s very special. Lilly is an amazing woman.”

A family tradition of helping

Laura-Leah-500x333April, 2014 - It was 16 years ago but Laura-Leah Shaw still remembers watching her daughter, six-years-old at the time, hand a homeless man a peach as they gave out fruit on Powell Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

He held it with both hands, smelled it and turned it around in his hands, enjoying a fruity fragrance he hadn’t experienced for some time.

“Small things, but they can make a difference in someone’s life,” says Laura-Leah, who donates and supports the Lookout Society and similar organizations.

She started to bring blankets to the Lookout Society about 14 years ago. Now she brings organic produce to supportive residences like the Jeffery Ross in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest postal codes in Canada. Laura-Leah (pictured with Jeffrey Ross tenant support worker Deirdre) collects foods from an organic grocer – food taken down off the shelves but still too good to throw out.

As a busy realtor, she still has time to collect and deliver it. Even this week, one day later than usual because of her daughter’s wedding.

As she unloads the boxes, a few heads poke out from the Jeffrey Ross windows. They’ve been waiting for this week’s delivery. The eating habits of the Ross residents has changed dramatically since she started making deliveries.

“It’s good that they eat healthier food and they are even organic.”

None of the food is ever wasted. When she owned an Okanagan hobby farm, the food that wasn’t good enough to be donated would go to the animals or be composted. Today Laura has a private animal shelter and that's where the extra food goes.

Donating to Lookout is a bit of a family tradition.

Laura-Leah’s two daughters grew up watching their mother and when they were in high school they collected food donations. Once the sisters had 22 boxes of apples so they baked hundreds of apple crisps and donated them.

“You don’t have to have money to help people,” she says. “These will be wasted otherwise. You just have to do it.”