Dawna Engbrecht

Packing bags for homeless this holiday

A daunting 130 backpacks need to be filled so they can given to the homeless as part of the Christmas Backpack Project.

A daunting 130 backpacks need to be filled so Niki Ottosen and her aunt Dawna Engbrecht are collecting all they can to help the homeless with gifts in time for Christmas.

Ottosen, of Colwood, started the Christmas Backpack Project in 2008 with 20 packs. Every year the project has grown but the idea remains the same. She fills the bags with warm clothes, food, treats and personal hygiene products.

Once the packs are complete, Ottosen and Engbrecht will find West Shore groups including the Goldstream Food Bank to distribute the bags to the homeless population.

Spillover will be sent to agencies in Greater Victoria including Our Place and the Dandelion Society.

“These are members of our community just like you and me,” Ottosen said.

Engbrecht, helping out for the second year, stores backpacks and supplies in her Langford home.

“We spend a lot of time outdoors,” said Ottosen, who works as a gardener. “I know what it’s like to be cold and wet and tired. I don’t know what it’s like to not have anywhere to go to and bed down on top of that.”

This year her goal was to stuff 100 backpacks, but through donations and store discounts she was able to purchase 130 of the bags. Right now she has enough socks, toques, and other items to fill about half of them.

Items needed include gloves, scarves, rain ponchos underwear, granola bars and hot chocolate.

A collection box for the project is set up at the Colwood Thrifty Foods, 1860 Island Highway.

For more information email christmaspackpackproject@gmail.com