Kelowna woman’s plan to help community gets widespread support

When Wenelda Zurrin saw a couple dozen men huddled on a sidewalk, near the bottle depot she was struck by a desire to help.

When Wenelda Zurrin saw a couple dozen men huddled on a sidewalk, near the bottle depot on Kirschner Road, she was struck by a desire to help.

“I went home and talked to my son and my husband, and said, ‘Why don’t we make some sandwiches and hand them out?”’ she said.

It was an idea her son Brian—who is always trying to think of way’s to help the community’s homeless—had two years earlier.

He’d brought it to his school, and it was vetoed based on health concerns.

So Zurrin wasn’t surprised when her 14-year-old was immediately on board with the suggestion.

Then Zurrin had another idea, and the support she’s had for that has been a little more surprising.

“I thought maybe we should ask some others if they want to help, too,” she said.

She posted her query on a Kelowna-oriented Facebook page and within hours, she was deluged with inquiries from people offering legwork, supplies and more.

“It’s been amazing,” she said Tuesday afternoon—less than a week after she made the post.

To date, she’s had 500 lines of inquiry, countless kudos and, for the sake of balance, the odd person who was feeling less than full of the Christmas spirit.

When all was accounted for, it turned an off-the-cuff decision to feed sandwiches to 25 people in need, into a day of giving which will take place Dec. 12 outside the OK Corral cabaret.

“We have around 130 bagged lunches being made,” said Zurrin, noting she has local moms stuffing paper bags with more than just a sandwich.

There will also be soup, a litre of juice, an apple, granola bar, socks and mittens. Those in need may just end up with a blanket or a coat, depending on supplies.

“It just snowballed so fast,” she said. “It started as a raindrop and ended up like Frosty (the Snowman).”

Key to ensuring the endeavour will go off without a hitch are a few people who reached out early—Beau Michael Hocevar, Brian Desrochers and Brenda Steadman.

Steadman and Desrochers read about Zurrin’s plan not long after it was posted, like countless others.

“We talked about it for around 30 minutes, and decided ‘let’s go for it,’” said Desrochers.

They will be offering up their food truck as the base of operations for the December event.

Working alongside them and whipping up vats of soup that day will be Hocevar, who recently made a bit of a name for himself by following through with an inclination to give to those who need the most.

Upon being laid off from his kitchen job over a month ago, Hocevar was struck by inspiration, much in the way Zurrin has been.

“I went home, and realized I didn’t want to get bummed out, so I looked in my fridge and  decided to make soup and hand it out to people who really needed it,” he said.

With a quick inquiry, he found out that the Gospel Mission feeds around 500 people a night, which required more ingredients than he had on hand. So, he bought what was needed and when all was said and done that night, he had 88 gallons of soup.

“I grabbed some pails and I walked through City Park handing them out,” he said, noting he had plenty left over.

A couple of weeks later he was joined by a friend from the Delta Grand, and they went about making more soup and handing it out.

“I plan to do it every couple of weeks,” he said, noting that real life tends to get in the way, but he does his best to find balance.

“It just makes me feel happy to put out the soup,” he said, noting he’s had mixed reactions from those he’s trying to help.

“Some guys have said ‘eff off’ and other guys want to hug,” he said.

Both reactions, in the end, are fine.

Zurrin said she has all the help she can handle at the moment, but if anyone has coats, blankets, mitts and socks, or even toiletries they want to donate they’re welcome to come to the OK Corral.

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