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STREET SMART: The Helping Hands Street Mission, located on Barton Street in Hamilton reaches out to those in need in the downtown core.

Events give mission a helping hand

By Catherine O’Hara, REVIEW STAFF

The Helping Hands Street Mission invites residents to carb up before they put their best foot forward at this year’s Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon – two events that will boost the organization.

The race, held at Confederation Park in Hamilton, offers participants the option to walk or run the one- or five-kilometre course on Saturday, Nov. 3, or take part in the half- or full-length marathon on Sunday, Nov. 4.

To prepare for the big race, runners as well as community residents can carb-up at a dinner on Friday, Nov. 2 at the Waterdown Legion, where volunteers will serve up salad, pasta by Boston Pizza and garlic bread. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children.

A portion of pledges collected by race participants as well as proceeds from the spaghetti dinner will go towards maintaining Helping Hands Street Mission’s operation and offset costs of minor renovations at the centre.

The organization, founded by Waterdown’s Helen Norris nearly 10 years ago, offers a variety of services to help those in need in Hamilton’s downtown core. A store that provides free clothing, a program centre and street mission are run by dedicated volunteers keen on offering their time or services to help others.

“Everybody is there to love each other for who they are and that really comes across in the volunteers,” said Laura Mara, of Waterdown, who is actively involved in helping to promote the organization and plan fundraising events.

“It’s an amazing cause; it helps people that are in need – no strings attached.”

Daily, some 80 individuals turn out to the store, located on Barton  Street between Victoria Avenue North and Wentworth Street North, while roughly 100 people drop-in to take part in weekly programs offered at the centre.

“Sometimes, they open the doors and there are people waiting on the sidewalk,” said Mara, noting that at times individuals are in need of clothes, while at others, they are just stopping in to say hello.

“They are treated as friends.”

While the Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon isn’t a huge fundraiser for Helping Hands Street Mission, every little bit helps, as the Christian-based organization does not receive funding from the government.

Participants can register to run in support of Helping Hands Street Mission. Registration forms and pledges must be turned in to the organization to qualify for Helping Hands Street Mission receipting.

Road2Hope event contestants don’t have to be trained athletes. Families, too, can participate and help the organization by walking or running in the shorter-distance courses.

“You can do it with friends; you can do it with family,” said Mara. “It’s a great family event.”

For more information on the Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon, the Helping Hands Street Mission or its fundraising spaghetti dinner, visit www.hhsmhamilton.com. To inquire about volunteer opportunities with the organization, contact Norris at hhsm@cogeco.ca or Mara at jljmara@aol.com.

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