Charity loses space at WLU
After nearly six years, a local charity known as Send ‘em Off Smiling (SOS) was asked to vacate donated space given to them by Wilfrid Laurier University.
The decision to have them leave was made in August.
Gary Nower, WLU’s vice-president of physical resources said the choice was made based on the school’s need for more academic space.
“The university … doesn’t have any warehousing, we’re leasing space off-site for warehousing, and we’re leasing space offsite for offices,” explained Nower.
SOS has been given until January 1, 2012 to vacate the donated space they have been occupying. Once they leave, that space will be converted back into a storage area for WLU.
Despite negative assumptions surrounding the situation, Nower commented that WLU and SOS “have had a very good relationship, but unfortunately [WLU] has pressing needs for academic space and that’s the priority right now … it’s not like we’re being the nasty people and throwing them out.”
WLU and SOS have worked closely over the years, and there was always an understanding that the day may come when the donated space would be taken back.
“We’ve been avoiding [asking them to leave] for several years, but finally we’re just out of space, so we agreed that they would find another space,” explained Nower.
“It’s always a surprise when they actually say after six years when you’re told,” said Shannon Diemert, Chair of SOS. However, Diemert added the charity was under the impression that day might come.
SOS is now looking for 4,000 square feet of space to operate out of.
They are hoping to find space in the Kitchener-Waterloo area where most of their charity work is done, but is also willing to move out to Cambridge.
SOS helps young students in the Kitchener-Waterloo area who are in need of school supplies and clothing.
Volunteers send out applications to teachers who know of students in need and give them information regarding supplies needed, their clothing sizes and personal preferences.
Once donations are collected, SOS assembles backpacks to distribute to students. “Each backpack is unique to each child,” Diemert explained.
The space provided was used not only for collecting donations, but for putting together backpacks for students, distributing the donations and held board meetings for the volunteers.
SOS has been helping students since 1994 so, for Diemert, it would be a shame for them to stop operating because of lack of space. However, SOS is extremely grateful to WLU for providing them with donated space for the past six years.
“[WLU] has helped us out tremendously, there are good feelings between us and we have worked well together; we can only thank them for the generosity,” said Diemert.