Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Salvation Army: Brother can you spare a deuce?

When Scott gets paid on Thursday, I will seek out a Salvation Army kettle and put $20 in it.

This doesn't make me a hero.

I'm just another person who needs to pay forward the gift the Sally Ann gave me 10 years ago.

Fueled by a dangerous cocktail of depression, self-pity and substance abuse, my son Nick left home in the winter of his 16th year, headed for the mean streets of Ottawa.

Fortunately, he had an angel on his shoulder in the form of Jacques Poirier, a counsellor with Ottawa's Youth Service bureau, who found him a home at the Salvation Army Young Men's Shelter.

It wasn't exactly a free ride.

Nick had to be out the door by 9 a.m. to either look for a job or get some counselling. He had to be back in time for curfew, or the doors would be locked. Sometimes, he didn't make the curfew and one night he had to sleep in minus 30 temperature in a parking garage downtown with drunks and addicts sniffing around him.

Nick learned his lesson and always made curfew after that.

For the little they asked of him, the Sally Ann provided Nick with a safe place to sleep, a locker for his meagre possessions and food. The Youth Services Bureau and Operation Come Home provided the rest of the support with drop in and medical services and a mid-day lunch.

Those were scary times for our family.

Nick was in a very dark place.

It could have gone either way.

But thanks to these community supports, he was able to hang in and get enough help to see his way home.

It's been a long, rough patch, but today Nick is employed full time and he and Shyla are expecting their first child over Christmas.

I believe the Sally Ann, along with the wonderful and caring people at the other agencies, saved his life that cold dark winter.

Twenty bucks isn't a lot to save a life, is it?

The Salvation Army's kettle campaign is $6 million behind its national target this year. It is short $170,000 in Ottawa alone.

Maybe you could reach into your wallet and put a deuce in the kettle this holiday season for others like Nick who have lost their way.

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