For one day, a classroom in Whalley where new immigrants learn the English language turned into a "Kindness Bazaar" hosted by a group of local grandmothers.
On Valentine's Day - in the middle of Random Acts of Kindness week - kind members of the Oneness Gogos of White Rock/Surrey filled the space at Umoja Newcomers Family Services Centre with new and gently-used blankets, bedding, clothing, toys, food and other items for clients of the facility to take home, for free.
Edith, a woman originally from Nigeria, eagerly filled a black garbage bag with jackets, shoes, a top and some toys.
"It's a special day," she said. "I'm finding a lot of things I need."
For three years, Edith has been attending classroom sessions and activities at Umoja, which offers a wide range of services and programs to immigrants and refugees - everything from banking skills to childcare. People from 32 countries come to the facility, at 10025 Whalley Blvd.
"This is usually the literacy classroom, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday," said Sonia Oni, program co-ordinator at Umoja. "The clients are very happy about this. It's a special thing for them."
For the "Kindness Bazaar," a lottery system was employed to give Umoja clients a chance to choose from the donated items, four people at a time starting at 10 a.m.
A couple dozen members of Oneness Gogos, including Debbie Riopel, contributed goods to the cause.
"We came in last night and set all this up," Riopel said with a smile. "We're doers. We love the work we do, and this is just extra special because we get to see the faces of the people we're helping, and get to know them a little."
The Oneness Gogos, under the auspices of Stephen Lewis Foundation, typically work to assist grandmothers in Africa, home to millions of so-called "AIDS orphans."
The event in Whalley was a chance for the group to help people much closer to home, with a few weeks of planning.
"It's random in the fact that this is something we've never done before, and may never do again," said Penny Cuddy, another Oneness Gogos member. "The idea just kind of came out of the blue."
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