As of March 2011, MacSOC has grown to a size of close to 300 volunteers who continue to provide food, clothing and health & social services information and support to the marginally housed, homeless, or those at risk of homelessness. It is a unique service where the University is actively involved in using a "hands on" approach in meeting the needs of those who are poor and marginalized in the City of Hamilton. After more than a decade of this initiative there is continued interest from students from the departments of medicine, midwifery, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and engineering, health sciences, arts and science, life sciences and kinesiology in volunteering with MacSOC.
St John’s Evangelical Church
Since 2002-2003 Mac SOC has partnered with the St. Evangelical Lutheran Church to provide indoor space for people each Wednesday evenings from 8pm – 10 pm during the school year from October to April .On a typical night, approximately 90-120 sandwiches are given out in addition to muffins, granola bars, and juice boxes that are donated. Clothing, blankets, coats, shoes and boots are distributed based on a priority need basis. Social interaction and consultation regarding health problems are available as there is an on site nurse available. Church volunteers work along side Mac SOC volunteers to provide the space, help with serving participants and assistance with cleaning up after outreach Wednesday evenings. In addition there are volunteer opportunities to prepare the food, sort clothing and to seek donations of clothing.
A team of 10-12 volunteers led by 2 Executive Committee Members and a Registered Nurse are responsible for the activities of the group. Two volunteers are assigned to monitor the comings and goings of individuals in the space. Three individuals are assigned to distribute clothes brought in laundry hampers. Three to four individuals are assigned to distribute food already prepared and brought to the church wrapped in large plastic containers and hot chocolate brought in thermoses. Each clothing and food group is responsible for maintaining cleanliness and for the collection and removal of garbage. One volunteer sets up an information table for distribution of information flyers for community services. The remaining individuals including the Registered Nurse are responsible for circulating and talking with individuals and may engage in private conversations with individuals at a table and chairs set aside from the clothing and food distribution sites. Some examples of discussions between Mac SOC professional health care providers and community persons include the management of chronic health problems such as diabetes and hypertension; side effects of treatment such as medications; substance abuse information; dental health needs as well as information requests on counselling and pregnancy testing.
To sign up: each fall an email is sent to Health & Arts and Science students regarding MacSOC Orientation/sign-up. At this orientation meeting you will learn about the activities of Mac SOC and how to sign up for outreach evenings.
Youth Outreach Workers, Hamilton (YOW-H)
Youth Outreach Workers – Hamilton (YOW-H) is a joint project between members of the Street Youth Planning Collaborative, the Province and Wesley Urban Ministries. Outreach staff are employed through various youth serving agencies to support young people 12-21 years in their communities in the east, central and north ends of the lower part of the City of Hamilton. The outreach staff team’s main goal is engaging youth that are not connected and therefore at an increased risk for involvement in violence, school drop out, teen pregnancy, etc.
Mac Soc partnered with YOW-H to get a glimpse into the interesting world of street work as this becomes a very real and necessary part of reaching out and assisting people in our community. As a pilot project, in the winter term of 2008 we initially recruited about 70 volunteers through a combination of online postings, information sessions in the fall, the Poverty Homeless course at McMaster and personal contacts.
During the pilot phase we had 15-20 students participating in weekly outreach with the Youth Outreach Workers (YOW). Our volunteers act in a supportive role for the YOW during evening outreach activities. The volunteers assist the YOWs in making connections with street-involved youth in the city of Hamilton. Shifts take place in downtown Hamilton in one of three broad geographic areas: Hamilton North, Hamilton Central and Hamilton East. Volunteers sign up for shifts through a communal Gmail account, using the "calendar" function to enter their names and their contact information.
To sign up: each fall an email is sent to Health & Arts and Science students regarding MacSOC Orientation/sign-up. At this orientation meeting you will learn about the activities of Mac SOC and how to sign up for outreach evenings. YOW representatives are present to answer questions about this volunteer opportunity.
Keliah Jewish Day School
In 2007, Kehillah Jewish elementary school students from junior kindergarten to Grade 5, began collecting sleeping bags and blankets from members of Hamilton’s Jewish community to be distributed at the church. Representatives from the McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative (Mac SOC) picked up the donations and provided the students with a plaque in recognition of their contribution. As a follow up to this initiative, members of Mac SOC executive were involved in teaching an interactive 3 hour education workshop to Kehillah students on the hidden aspects of poverty.
Additional Volunteer Opportunities
Operation Shoebox Christmas
"Operation Shoebox" is a Christmas shoebox drive in which approximately 300 shoeboxes are donated and handed out with items such as gift certificates, socks , hats, gloves and personal hygiene items. The shoeboxes are distributed by Mac SOC every year the last Wednesday before Christmas to those individuals and families experiencing poverty and homelessness in the City.
To volunteer a shoebox for this event, contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Eva Heslop (firstname.lastname@example.org). She will give you the age group for which you can make a Christmas Shoebox. Then collect a shoebox, wrap it in holiday paper and fill it with socks, mittens, gift certificates (Tim Horton’s, Food Basics etc), holiday treats, shampoo, hair brushes etc.
Cut A Thon
For the past seven years, Mac SOC has held a Cut-A-Thon fundraiser in partnership with the Albert Snow Hair Design Group to raise funds to help those whom Mac SOC serves. This is a unique fundraiser, where top hair designers in the community donate their styling services to raise money to support the activities of Mac SOC. For the 2008 Cut A Thon, $5,000 was raised from donations from the public and from corporate support of the Cut A Thon by Goldwell. All proceeds raised went to help support Wesley Urban Ministries Youth Housing program. This program supports youth 16-21 years of age, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Wesley Youth housing program teaches hands on life skills, with varying levels of support, so youth gain the experience of living independently. Proceeds from the 2008 Cut A Thon went to support youth living at Wesley youth housing who require assistance with academic goals.