LITTLE CURRENT— Tables were filled to overflowing with housewares and clothing this past Sunday, even before the doors of the Little Current United Church opened for the Spirit of Giving Shower for the Eritrean refugee families that have been invited to make Manitoulin their new home.

For two hours, from 2 pm to 4 pm, community members from across Manitoulin came laden with furniture, bedding, warm winter clothing, boots, dishes, cutlery and a host of other items necessary to set up five homes on Manitoulin Island.

Regeat Asmelash and daughter Yohana Ogbamichael of Little Current cut into a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of Eritrean bread called hembesha baked for the Sunday shower. photos by Michael Erskine
Regeat Asmelash and daughter Yohana Ogbamichael of Little Current cut into a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of Eritrean bread called hembesha baked for the Sunday shower. Photos by Michael Erskine

In addition to the housewares and furniture, plenty of gift cards, Canadian Tire money, cheques and cold hard cash poured in. “We raised $2,790.15 including cash, cheques, gift cards and even Canadian Tire money,” said co-organizer Linda Erskine.

The donors came in all shapes and sizes, including a trio of youngsters bearing in their arms a newly purchased set of dishes and tea set. “They heard about the refugees and wanted to do something to help,” said Holly Anderson, as she shepherded Nyaeli Abotossaway, Essance Abotossaway and Safiyah Esquimaux through the doors to the Little Current United Church hall after a shopping trip initiated by the children specifically to pick up items for the refugee families.

Many of the items being dropped off were of the ‘gently used’ category, but there were many donors whose offerings were still in their original packaging or purchased specifically for the shower.Shower-5

Some donors attending the Spirit of Giving Shower popped in and out with their items, busy with their other pre-Christmas chores, but more often than not they paused to chat and enjoy a hot cup of coffee, tea, cider or hot chocolate and nibble on the amazing array of Christmas baking supplied for the event by a host of volunteers—making the event a true Christmas social event.

An especially unanticipated delight came in the form of a traditional Eritrean spiced bread called hembesha brought in by Regeat Asmelash and daughter Yohana Ogbamichael of Little Current. The large round cake of bread was still warm from the oven when Ms. Amelash began to cut it into generous slices for the lucky volunteers and donors. A small portion that remained after the event was carefully wrapped to be used as a communion bread at next Sunday’s United Church service.

While volunteers diligently marked down the names and addresses of the donors (except those who desired anonymity), others pre-sorted the donations into general categories of clothing, furnishings, bedding and linens, kitchenware, cutlery and footwear and still others assisted in unloading the many trucks and cars pulling up to the church hall.

Members of the various refugee resettlement committees were to sort what each needed to help set up their respective family homes in the following days, with any excess items left over finding a useful home with the Manitoulin Family Resources Help Centre.

At least one of the homes found for the incoming families is coming completely furnished, with others coming complete with major appliances.

Holly Anderson helps her three charges Nyaeli Abotossaway, Essance Abotossaway and Safiyah Esquimaux bring in their gifts of dishes and a tea set, picked out specially for the refugees by the girls.
Holly Anderson helps her three charges Nyaeli Abotossaway, Essance Abotossaway and Safiyah Esquimaux bring in their gifts of dishes and a tea set, picked out specially for the refugees by the girls.

“Once these items are sorted and divided up to the committees for their families we will have a better idea of what is still needed,” said Ms. Erskine. “It has been truly amazing to see the outpouring of generosity from the Manitoulin Island community, but it certainly has not come as a surprise. Many of us know first hand just how giving and supporting our neighbours are in the face of tragedy.