Residential school survivor Alex Watts brings hope and love to the poor on Christmas Day

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      A formerly homeless man, Alex Watts, is in the final stages of preparation for his third Christmas giveaway.

      In 2014, the residential school survivor from the Nisga'a village of Kincolith founded "Hope & Love 4 U" to aid and honour Downtown Eastside residents.

      It's an annual December 25 event held to donate free sandwiches, hot chocolate, Mandarin oranges, blankets, and winter clothing.

      Last year, Watts spent weeks collecting donations and rounding up 75 volunteers, including many from the Chinese Baptist Church.

      Today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Watts and his friends will again be at the corner of Main and East Hastings streets singing carols and handing out more freebies to low-income Vancouverites.

      Many of the volunteers will be wearing reindeer antlers.

      "The event is a departure from the countless partying and feasting in the city on Christmas," wrote Watts's friend Bill Chu in a notification to the media. "It is an Indigenous Christian’s response to the stress and depression often experienced by the financially challenged in Downtown Eastside on Christmas, when they may be alone and may not receive presents or invitations to lunch. So the idea of this humble event is to bring the initial spirit of Christmas to a forgotten corner in our city, and to show, contrary to some suggestions, that minorities do care about the society’s well-being and try to fit in where there are needs."

      It comes the day after Labour Community Christmas Dinner for low-income people, which was held on Christmas Eve at the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver and at the Royal Canadian Legion in Surrey.

      The 22nd annual event fed thousands of people.

      “The dinner is one of the many ways the union movement gives back to the community,” B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said in a news release. “And with it comes our commitment for the New Year that we will continue to advocate for good jobs, good wages, and action from the provincial government to address issues around poverty.”