Jackie Maclean is approaching a first anniversary of sorts, and it's a unique one at that.
It's been nearly a year since the Langley hypnotherapist and her friends first trekked to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to hand out sandwiches to people living in one of Canada's poorest zip codes.
Maclean came up with the concept from a similar charity event, in which 1,000 sandwiches were delivered to the residents on an annual basis.
After seeing the work done first hand, Maclean said to her son, Craig, "'I want to do this. I want to book a website.'"
She immediately secured the website address, Homeless On Hastings, but after that, it took some time for the project to take wing. Maclean originally planned for the first event to be held on Valentine's Day in 2011, but other commitments caused a delay.
"So then I decided talking doesn't help, I've got to take action," Maclean said. "Even if I do it myself, make 10 sandwiches and go downtown..."
The very first sandwich drive took place on Aug. 28, 2011. Led by Maclean, a group of local people handed out 477 sandwiches to the residents that day.
"That was really tough because I didn't really know where to start - where to buy the ham or how much it costs, and where to buy bread, and all of those things," she recalled. Since then, once a month, Maclean and others prepare the sandwiches at her home, and then head to east Vancouver to distribute them.
Originally, the volunteers handed out sandwiches only.
Recently, they've also been offering bottled water and soft fruit to the residents, many of whom are plagued with substance abuse or mental health issues - in some cases, both.
"My father was an alcoholic, and that is what has driven me to do it," Maclean said, "and really, there's no judgment in this. The way I look at is, addiction is really a cry for help."
Her father battled alcoholism and her younger brother died an alcoholic at 38.
Maclean knows what it's like to go without. Before immigrating to Canada, she lived in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), in an area she described as "The Bronx of India." Maclean and her three siblings were provided basics like food and school, and not much else. The home the family lived in housed six people and took up about 300 square feet - that included the living room, bedroom, and study area, all rolled into one.
Maclean said the recipients of the group's goodwill keep her coming back.
"They are very grateful, especially when they know that we're doing it on our own time, and it's not some organization doing it," she said. "And especially when they find out that we're coming all the way from Langley to do this, they're very appreciative."
She has gotten to know a few of the residents, "especially a few women," Maclean said.
Maclean would love to ramp up the efforts to once a week, noting, "They [the people living on the Downtown Eastside] are hungry every day."
She and the volunteers will be handing out food this Sunday, July 29, and anyone wanting to take part can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, businesses that would like to donate water or sandwich meat to the cause can contact Maclean via email.
The group usually makes the sandwiches between 10 a.m. and noon and then drive west to distribute the food.
Many hands make lighter work, and this is definitely the case for Maclean and her band of volunteers.
"The last time, because we had fewer volunteers, it took us three hours to only make the sandwiches," she said. "Then we have to truck them downtown, so it's a whole day affair."
Regular volunteers include Jas and David Hothi, Barb Hales, Marilyn Moseley, Pat and Sharon McGinnes, Bev Genge, Wendy DeLorme, and Shawna Truax.
"Other volunteers have donated money and goodies, too, and I am very grateful and want to thank them sincerely," Maclean said.
Manj Uppal, formerly from Surrey and now in the United Kingdom, continues to donate money. Joanne Berman and her family also donate funds to the cause.
Celina Jhajj from Coquitlam drops off more than 250 bottles of water to Maclean's door on a monthly basis.
And for July 2012, the evening chapter of the Valley Women's Network has donated $50.
A Bread Affair has also been a regular contributor, donating more than $1,000 worth of bread each month. Maclean said she is "very grateful" to owner Pat McCarthy and manager Kim Purchase.
Visit www.HomelessOnHastings.com to see where donations are going.
@ Copyright 2013