The Inn of the Good Shepherd is hoping residents step up to help the local charity by buying a ticket for its first-ever Local Shopping Spree raffle, which comes to an end Aug. 31.
With a spike in demand for the many services the Inn provides since the pandemic started – including finding shelter for the homeless, providing individuals and families with food security and helping those suffering with poverty – as well as a lack of traditional fundraising opportunities available due to pandemic restrictions in place, this spring the Inn decided to launch a one-of-a-kind raffle to bring in some money while also giving a lift to local small businesses also hard-hit by COVID.
The raffle draw was originally set to take place at the end of May, but the provincial lockdown prevented the Inn and its partners from selling tickets. So the agency sought and got an extension for the draw to take place Aug. 31.
Myles Vanni, executive director of the Inn, said he hopes the people of Sarnia-Lambton will support the unique raffle as it goes into its final month.
Tickets for the raffle cost $25 apiece and there are 11 shopping spree prizes worth a total of $50,000 available. Each of the prizes have been purchased from 35 local businesses and range from a $1,000 shopping spree to a grand prize of a $20,000 home package.
Vanni said the Inn had to ‘pivot’ in terms of fundraising ideas when faced with the onset of the pandemic last year, and came up with an idea that would help others as well.
“Like a lot of organizations and their traditional fundraisers, we’ve had to change things,” he said. “We were trying to look something creative, something different but also something that was going to support our local community, because it’s been so very difficult for people being laid off, for businesses not being able to be open and some businesses have been closed permanently.
“We started brainstorming ideas and we thought that the best way to help somebody is to allow them to help themselves. With raffles, most times charities ask businesses to donate things, but we knew businesses were struggling and aren’t really in a position to donate. So we decided to buy the prizes from them, which gives them an income that they can use to keep people employed, and if people are employed then they don’t need our services,” Vanni continued. “So the Local Shopping Spree raffle really became a win-win-win: a win for the businesses involved, to keep their employees working, a win for us because we’ll have additional revenues for programming and a win for whoever wins the prizes, because there are some pretty cool packages.”
Along with supporting local businesses and helping out the Inn, buying a $25 ticket will also have a direct and positive impact on those most in need in the community, Vanni said.
“There are so many needs, particularly since last year for individuals who need food. We’ve also seen higher rent utility needs and food needs as the shutdowns and the layoffs have continued,” he said.
“Probably our biggest challenge right now is homelessness. Pre-COVID, we had 35 people in shelter between the Haven and the Lodge. Last night we had 221. So the impact of COVID has created a great deal of homelessness for people. Now we have people set up in hotels and motels all over the community – we even have our own isolation facility set up so that if somebody becomes symptomatic we can isolate them.
“We’ve added about a dozen staff since last year to care for the increase in numbers and we now have staff at the Lodge, the Haven as well as Sunridge, not to mention extra staff here to organize the food. One of the real challenges with the people in the motels is that they only have a microwave and a kettle – as a result we have to prepare about 150 boxes every week with very particular kinds of things in them because our clients don’t have pots and pans,” Vanni added.
“So we’re buying huge amounts of food to fill those boxes and to replace the food drives we’ve lost (since the pandemic began). It’s about 80,000 pounds of food we’ve lost this year and last year because of (their absence). And money raised from this raffle will help us a lot with our food challenges.”
Raffle tickets will be sold until Aug. 29 and are available online at www.localshoppingspree.com or in person at Russell Street Home Hardware, Harbour Clothing Company, Great Lakes Refill Co., The Book Keeper, In Motion, The Eye Opener, One Tooth Activewear, Bad Dog – Sarnia and Corunna locations, Coffee Lodge Exmouth Street and Petrolia locations, John’s Restaurant, Skeeter Barlow’s Bar & Grill Bright’s Grove, DOG EAT DOG and the Inn of the Good Shepherd’s location at 115 John St. in Sarnia.