Wilhauk Beef Jerky has raised thousands of dollars for the homeless after sharing their story online.
Generosity has spread across the Tri-Region after the story of a local businesswoman's encounter with a homeless man.
Amanda Wilhauk was at her business working late when she saw a homeless man walking past her office window with a bag of bottles. "The windows are tinted so he couldn't see that I could see him" Wilahuk explains, "I was pretty stunned for sure, just shocked really". She then decided to go out and ask him if he would like the rest of their bottles to take to the depot. "He honestly thought he was getting into trouble" Wilhauk adds, on top of offering the bottles, she says they gave him $40 some jerky and some pepperoni as that was all they had on them at the time. Then they told him to keep the bottles in their basement overnight when he could come and get them the next day.
The following day the man, Paul, returned and talked with Amanda's husband Trevor and explained he had taken the money to go buy a warm meal at Boston Pizza and used the rest to buy new jeans from the thrift store. "He had been so long without a warm hot meal that his stomach started to hurt from it, but he just couldn't stop eating" says Amanda. It was then she asked if she could share the story on their Facebook page and explained they may be able to help him further and this is where things really took off.
The post has since gone viral having been shared over ten thousand times. Amanda also made not of the response from the community saying, "the outpouring from this area has been astounding truly, people have been coming into the shop constantly dropping of $5, $200, $1000 just whatever they could afford, they're putting in gift cards and taking a moment to just talk to us and it's been very cool". She added the donations are coming from outside of the Tri-Region as well with online transfers coming from places as far as Abbotsford and Florida.
For the Wilhauks they always try to give back to the homeless they say, but Amanda explains why this one stood out, "It's too heartbreaking to see him sitting on our steps and knowing I'm going to drive home in my nice truck, to my beautiful warm house, to a warm hot meal and this guy is going to go sleep outside".
The tremendous amount of support cam as a surprise for the Wilhauks as they expected maybe a thousand dollars would come in, but they have now surpassed $5000 and are closer to $7000 according to Amanda. "We had to go buy another donation box because the first one filled up completely." Amanda says.
The people who have come in to help donate have been incredible as well according to the Wilhauks with one little boy hand writing a letter to Paul and donating $5, and another woman who said she would come back later in the week when she gets paid as she was formerly homeless and wanted to pay it forward.
The Wilhauks have also taken Paul to Mark's Work Warehouse and completely outfitted his wardrobe with a new jacket, new pants, socks and more. Amanda says, "We walked into the store and we said whatever you want you go ahead this is from Spruce Grove and this is for you".
Amanda also adds this may create more awareness of homelessness outside of major cities and she also explains that she feels Alberta is one of the toughest places to be homeless just due to the weather alone. "I think this really has just opened peoples eyes and their hearts" Amanda adds.
A portion of the donations have gone to help Paul, while Amanda says the rest of the donations will go to Neighbourlink Spruce Grove, Auggie's Cafe and Homelesslink Alberta. They also hoped to match the donations made up until March 16th but said they will always be accepting donations.
As a final note, Amanda once again thanks the Tri-Region for their generosity saying, "We're just really happy to be a part of this community and be a part of all the giving that's going on it's very heartwarming".