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Free Day in Ellerslie helps Western Islanders in time for Christmas

Georgia MacKinnon enjoys herself in Ellerslie as she helps her sister, Blye Perry, get ready for Free Day.
Georgia MacKinnon enjoys herself in Ellerslie as she helps her sister, Blye Perry, get ready for Free Day. - Contributed

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - As Blye Perry was scrolling through a Facebook page where local moms network, she was so moved by the need for children’s items that she took action.

Perry was on the Island Mothers Helping Mothers page when she saw a post offering a few articles of kids’ clothes.

“About five people said ‘next’ on the post. And I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “What they mean by ‘next’ is if the person didn’t pick it up, they wanted to be next on the list to pick it up. It really, really bothered me.

“That really tells me something, there’s a big need out there,” she said of moms who were basically scrambling to get their hands on one outfit.

So, Perry decided to hold a Free Day in Ellerslie on Dec. 22. She and a team of volunteers gathered items to give away and went looking for a place to hold the event

Perry is part of a Christian group called Divine Encounters Fellowship. Its members have been meeting in small groups for years and are ready to move into a larger space.

She consulted with Pastor Allan Ramjattan, the leader of the new soon-to-be congregation.

“There were needs in the surrounding communities, so we felt we can at least do this in the meantime,” said Rajmattan.

So, the former Sleep Factory was the site of the first Free Day. Once they finish the incorporation paperwork, they’ll begin services there.

Perry recruited her family, and together her mother, daughter, husband, sisters and brothers gathered extra items from their homes, brought them to the old Sleep Factory and hosted the first Free Day.

“This is along our core values as a fellowship, of extending grace and mercy and love to people in practical ways,” said Rajmattan.

There were household goods, toys and vegetables. Around 50 people took advantage of the offerings.

One man had just made the choice to get heating oil, knowing there would be no money left to get Christmas gifts for his sons, said Perry.

“He said, ‘I had nothing for the boys.’ So, I helped fill up some stuff. He said, ‘I’m going right home and wrapping these up.’ That’s the reality. That’s what people are facing.”

One person brought a large bin and filled it with items to share with two families.

“There’s a lot of generosity out there. There really is,” she said.

Perry figures the increased prices at second-hand stores have forced struggling families out of the market.

“Poverty is a real big issue. I know it stems from mental health issues and addictions and just low incomes. The incomes are low, and the bills are high,” she said. “Why should their family suffer for that? There’s little kids that don’t have anything.”

It all came together in a week, so quickly that they didn’t have time to take in donations from the community. However, in the future, the fellowship will be accepting goods.

“We have enough space in this building; we can possibly do this on a consistent basis,” said Rajmattan.

“As soon as we get enough stuff picked up and cleaned up, we’ll go and have another free day and just keep on going because the need is there,” said Perry.

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