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Lost Property, Found Confidence

Submitted by on April 22, 2010 – 7:12 pm

Hands up. Who has left an umbrella or ipod on a bus, or some important business documents due to be given to a client the next morning on a train (er … that last one was me.) We’ve all done it, and we’ll probably all carry on doing it. Thousands of items are left on public transport each year, some of which is claimed immediately, the rest just sits and waits patiently in lost and found offices. Often the owners never reclaim their property.

So what happens to all those glasses, books, headphones and whatever else we inadvertantly leave behind on seats or luggage racks? Normally items have to be kept for 3 months then after that time if unclaimed, they get auctioned or given to charity.

Giving these forgotten items to charity is a wonderful way of sharing and helping those in need, but I recently read about an umbrella charity organisation in Ottawa, Canada who not only organises the sale of lost and unclaimed items in order to raise money for their charity but enables those people in their care to take part on the day of the sale.

Heartwood House consists of 16 charities including those caring for people with intellectual disabilities, adult literacy, aphasia and for people with eating disorders. Twice a year they take all the lost and found items from OC Transpo (the bus transit service for Ottowa and Carleton, Canada) and organise a huge sale with the proceeds divided between all of the charities at Heartwood House. But in addition to this, the people that are getting support from these charities (those with intellectual disabilities etc) can volunteer to help in selling the goods. As Maureen Moloughney, the executive director of Heartwood House, says,

This is a marvelous opportunity for people who are part of our literacy programs, our program for intellectually disabled adults, ESL programs, to be able to come here to lose the doubt that they have about themselves and gain confidence that they can do this work and build skills to use elsewhere and find employment.”

Such benefits that can be gained from the charity sale are worth far more than the money raised. What a great idea it is turning the fund-raising sale of lost and neglected umbrellas and ipods into a confidence-building, purposeful activity for those in need of a little extra help and encouragement.

In December 2009, Heartwood House was the recipient of the Celebration of People Award. The award recognised the creation of meaningful volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities. And well-deserved it is too.

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