Beyond the Change Jar


I started walking to work the day after I wrote my last exam in May of 2004. Over the past few years, I’ve logged some serious miles between the office and home, while my typical path usually takes me through parts of the downtown. My travels have made me highly tuned to my surroundings, from the buildings to the familiar faces I pass along the way. There’s that guy with the salt and pepper hair in a blue jacket who I always exchange a groggy nod with in the morning, the enthusiastic young couple walking the gorgeous pair huskies on the weekend, and panhandlers such as Pat Jeffery, a seemingly permanent fixture outside the Sleepless Goat. While you might not have a lot of time for people who ask for spare change, if you’re like me, you might be intrigued to learn a little bit about Pat’s story.

Enter Galit Rodan who decided to feature Pat Jeffery for a video documentary project. The short provides a brief glimpse into Jeffery’s life, touching on her troubled past, substance abuse (fair warning that that this video shows drug use), as well as the human spirit. Galit describes the documentary experience as follows:

Pat Jeffery is a panhandler in Kingston, Ontario. I walked by her for years, stopping to talk only a handful of times. I probably dropped some change in her jar once or twice before finding out that she had a home and deciding that she was therefore not needy enough to merit any charity from me.

When we were assigned to cover a social issue for my documentary class, i thought about Pat. Despite having a bit of an aversion to her, I was also curious about what it was like to be her. Startlingly, although I had never been overly generous, she allowed me to document her life. This video is in no way representative of Pat in her entirety, of course. Editing decisions were made in order to drive a coherent, cohesive storyline and there was so much about Pat and her partner Don that I couldn’t include.

I learned a lot. Mainly, as someone who can be quite judgmental at times, I learned to appreciate that everyone has a story and you just never know where people are coming from. It was definitely worth taking the time to find out. It’s crazy how your mind can close as you get older…it’s nice to step back every once in a while and teach yourself a lesson.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

2 thoughts on “Beyond the Change Jar

  • That was a very deep look into Pat. I know her having been a regular at the Goat for years its nice to talk to her in passing. I think I want to spend more time hearing her story.

  • It’s nice to see people treated as human beings no matter their past or present situation….I’m actually a relative of Pat’s through marriage and despite her past and present life and choices she’s a very kind and caring woman.

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