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This is my heartbeat, says Fern

The Christmas season is fast upon us, and so the the call to to reach out to those in need is close. However, the need does not end when the holidays do, as the example of Fern Wade and Hands of Love Ministry demonstrates.

For 31 years now, Mrs Wade has, with the help of volunteers and donations, reached out to Bermuda's neediest and most vulnerable. Unfortunately, she has seen poverty grow over the years, and now, more than ever, the hardships faced by those in poverty has grown more urgent.

“Children are not going to school because of no food,” Mrs Wade explained.

She shared a story of a young mother who called the ministry for assistance. She and her husband were doing everything possible to keep a roof over their heads, but that was taking food away from the table and lunchboxes. This young mother's greatest fear was that if she sent her children to school hungry, and the school reported it, she could lose her children.

“It's a growing problem . . . It's quite serious,” Mrs. Wade shared.

“When our children go hungry, it is everyone's problem.”

Once upon a time, homelessness in Bermuda tended to be limited to older men, often with mental or emotional disabilities, or drug or alcohol addictions. Today, though, those on the streets extend to families living in cars.

“We've even found teenagers, as young as 16, 17, 18, living in parks.”

This Sunday, Hands of Love will host its 31st annual Christmas Meal on the Street. The organisation usually serves between 250 and 350 meals out of Bull's Head Car Park. Several schools on the Island have also committed to supporting the ministry this Christmas through the Shoe Boxes of Love and food drives. Shoe Boxes of Love are shoe boxes filled with toothpaste, a toothbrush, comb, deodorant, powder, shampoo, a small face cloth, towel and a pair of socks.

They will be distributed on December 23, to help eliminate the possibility of the boxes being sold for money or other items.

Winter is also a challenging time for many of Bermuda's neediest, especially for the homeless, when cold, wet nights are common.

Through the months of January and February, Hands of Love serves soup on the streets on Monday and Thursday nights, as well as host their annual blanket drive.

The public are invited to donate clean blankets that can be given out.

“In Bermuda, we are small enough, we can do something about poverty, if we were more neighbourly,” Mrs Wade said.

She would love to see schools and churches open their halls and basements as a place for those in need to sleep and wash, allowing people to come in off the streets.

“It doesn't cost much,” Mrs Wade said.

Of course, individuals are welcome to make donations to allow Hands of Love to continue their works of charity. In addition to financial donations and grocery gifts, the group would also benefit from contributions of curtains, pots and pans, dishes and children's clothes.

Items should be in good, clean condition. Unfortunately, many items dropped off at the ministry's location on Camp Hill in Warwick are left in terrible condition, leaving the group with the task of trashing the items the moldy and smelly items themselves.

“I love my community, I love serving Bermuda,” Mrs Wade said.

In fact, she often heads to her own cupboards to provide food for items.

“This is my heartbeat.”

To assist Hands of Love, you can contact them by calling 238-7368, or through their post office box, PO Box HM3281, Hamilton, HMPX.

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Published December 11, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm)

This is my heartbeat, says Fern

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