'The Poncho Project' gives to the homeless 

Longtime local pioneers charity drive

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - THE PONCHO PROJECT  Bob Murl wearing one of the rain ponchos that Reid Gervais is now selling for $15.
  • photo submitted
  • THE PONCHO PROJECT Bob Murl wearing one of the rain ponchos that Reid Gervais is now selling for $15.

The idea came to Reid Gervais in the early hours of Dec. 18.

The previous day he had been talking with a colleague about possible uses for a large number of unused rain ponchos — about 950 of them.

"He asked me if I had any ideas, and at 2 o'clock in the morning I woke up, and I said 'I know exactly what we can do here,'" Gervais said.

"Who could better use a rain poncho?"

The answer was obvious, and The Poncho Project was born.

For a donation of $15, you can purchase one of the ponchos — estimated value of about $80 — which Gervais will personally deliver to homeless people on the streets of Vancouver.

Four days after starting the project, Gervais had already hand-delivered 35 of the ponchos to Vancouver's homeless.

"I went down on (Dec. 20) and handed them out, so it's a pretty cool experience," he said.

"When you see the look on these people's faces when you hand them the poncho, and they've got tears in their eyes, it's pretty cool."

The ponchos themselves are likely to last a long time, Gervais said.

"They're really a high-quality garment. I mean these guys will have them for years," he said.

"Some of the ski school guys have been using them for two years when it's pouring rain and really wet, so they're really a great quality poncho."

So far Gervais' Poncho Project is a one-man operation, but he's looking for help on the distribution side of things.

"Right now I'm so busy, I'm working all day long, seven days a week through the holidays with the ski school," Gervais said.

"I can only go so far by myself, and I'm walking the streets and handing them out to people... if we had a whole bunch of them sold or donated, then I would need help to distribute them."

And with close to 900 ponchos still waiting to be moved, the operation could get much bigger in the coming weeks.

Anyone looking to purchase a poncho or willing to offer any other kind of assistance can contact Gervais at reidg1@telus.net.

For now, Gervais is focused on selling and distributing the remaining 900 ponchos, but he's not ruling out a similar project in the future.

"I think it's very possible to be able to continue this year after year, and that's definitely something that I could get behind. It's really predicated on people's generosity, but it can grow, and that's the key. One step at a time," he said.

Gervais said he was reminded of an old parable, in which a man comes across another man on an ocean beach at low tide, picking up starfish one by one and tossing them back into the ocean.

"The first guy says to him, what the heck are you doing? There's thousands of these starfish," Gervais said.

"And he said 'well, it made a difference for that one.'"



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