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Bear Necessities provides the essentials

By Chris Adams, September 18 2014 —

Bear Necessities, a University of Calgary club sanctioned last month, gives those simple bare necessities to Calgary’s most needy. Alexa Villanueva and her sister started the club after their experience with the homeless while  working downtown.

By providing kits with essentials like toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo, the girls hope to impact the lives of Calgary’s homeless.

“We were approached by a lot of homeless people asking for money. We wanted to do something more than just give someone spare change,” Villanueva said. “We know that a lot of other people want to help, but I know there’s a common notion that homeless people are just going to spend [money] on drugs or alcohol.”

The care-packages will be funded in part by donations. Students will have the opportunity to buy a package to be handed out at one of the club’s distribution stations.

Bear Necessities are also looking for corporate donations.

Anyone on campus can donate items in collection baskets the club will set up around the U of C. The club put three baskets in Scurfield Hall, one in the sustainability centre and one at the Bow building downtown.

While most kits include basic toiletries and other essentials, Villanueva said some packages will vary with the seasons.

“We’re thinking we’ll specialize our packages when winter comes. That’s a big problem in Calgary, the weather. [We’ll] maybe throw some mitts in there, a blanket,” Villanueva said.

The club has around 30 members, with the sisters sitting as co-presidents.

Villanueva said naming the club was tough, but a dinner conversation with their parents brought things back to basics.

“[The teddy bear] is a symbol of care and compassion, so we thought we’d work that in there,” Villanueva said.

Bear Necessities plans to make separate packages for kids, with a teddy bear potentially included.

“In university, you get so caught up in school. A lot of us are working and have so many extra-curricular activities. It’s nice to be able to ground yourself, come back to reality and understand that there are more people out there that have bigger problems than you,” Villanueva said.

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