As we were very fortunate to have a place of our own, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, it came with lot of responsibility of housekeeping too. Few of our devotee women started cleaning the altar, changing poshak regularly and took special interest in decorating altar idol on special festivals. Same time we took responsibility of looking after kitchen cleanliness and inventory. The attendance of devotees were increasing day by day, so our responsibilities. Finally, Wanti Dhingra and Mayadi from this group of women approached HSS president Sunil Choubal 2003- 2005 to form group women auxiliary by the name of Annapurna Group. The name was taken from the Sanskrit word meaning the giver of food and nourishment. “Anna” means food or grains and “purna” means full, complete, and perfect. It was accepted. Sunil Choubal was supportive and encouraging to us. We were all new to do volunteer work with the community in large. However, we were very successful with all the projects we did. We were still doing abovementioned duties, but stepping out in the community at large projects. Our group got involved in Friendship Inn. Friendship Inn is a safe refuge for vulnerable children, youth, and adults who experience poverty and are unable to provide food for them. Friendship Inn provides breakfast and lunch with a no- question asked policy. Where very few interested women will go during lunchtime and help them to distribute to needy families lunches. Really, it was very satisfying to see smile on their faces. We were going twice a month. One day we decided to cook Indian food for about 300 people. We did it, chole, fried about 700 puris, and took to friendship inn, they never tasted Indian food before, and most of them liked it. We did it two years, but it was big commitment, so we stopped cooking, but kept going to help. Our group will make sure that excess amount of food from the big festivals in temple delivered to Friendship Inn. Once requested lot of men came forward and took the responsibility. Thank you all men. Pitra Paksha, literally “fortnight of the ancestors”) or Sradha Paksha is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar when Hindus pay homage and respect to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. Mostly it is in September. Here we chose Food Bank to donate nonperishable for needy families. We requested Food Bank to deliver their barrels for nonperishable foods in our Hindu Temple. It was a huge success. In the end, they took about three barrels of food to Food Bank. We were extremely happy to see the generosity of our congregation.
During Christmas, we appealed to our congregation to donate gently used clothes and toys for less fortunate abused children and their battered mothers who had to leave home to save their lives and stayed in Y.W.C.A Crisis Centre. Our congregation poured their heart for these unfortunate families, same time we asked for new born too few months old baby clothes, baby formula, baby food, and diapers. These all things we took it in three vans to Crisis Nursery Centre, where unwanted babies left in very poor condition. It was unbelievable to see the outpour of clothes new toys and baby foods. Y.W.C.A authorities were so happy and thankful they called all of us for an afternoon tea. It was a great feeling. We took part in Terry Fox Run for two years in a row. The Terry Fox Run is an annual non-competitive charity event held in numerous regions around the world in commemoration of Canadian cancer activist Terry Fox, and his Marathon of Hope, and to raise money for cancer research. Isadora Sharp founded the event in 1981. Sharp himself had lost his son to cancer in 1979. The event held every year on the second Sunday following Labor Day. All the donations collected from our HSS participants, donated to Terry fox Run Foundation. Our next and last project was to take part in ‘Project Linus Canada’. Project Linus Canada is a volunteer-operated organization providing much- loved blankets full of hugs to children going through a crisis in their lives, specially, young and poverty-stricken children dealing with cancer. Our members hand knitted about 80 blankets and donated to the Project Manager, who used to go to remote small town’s hospitals in Saskatchewan and personally delivered. Few women who did not know how to knit, provided yarn and money as donations. We got few letters from grieving moms who had lost their child. They mentioned that the child loved that blanket so much, that they put the blanket in the coffins, when their child passed away. After some time we lost two very devoted members of the group, slowly Annapurna Group was fading away and we had to close it. Congregation wanted us to continue our good work and they enjoyed all the events but there was nobody wants to take the leadership and continue it. We had a fantastic group of 45 members. Their ideas, enthusiasms, and laughs made everybody so happy and content. We used to have meetings; always we had sufficient snacks of different kinds and hot tea. A thank you note from Mayadi to each volunteer to be a part of Hindu Society of Saskatchewan Annapurna Group to make it so successful. Thank you everybody and God bless you ALL. Mayadi, the founding member of Annapurna Group, greatly appreciated for devoting her time and efforts to train young and adults to learn to play the temple bhajans (hymns) on the harmonium. Many children and adults learned to play from her and took turns playing the harmonium on Sundays’ during regular worship.
Written by: Vijayalakshmi Kalagnanam & Mayadi