“Oh my goodness, I was emotional,” Russell told CBC News.
“They are just so humble and kind.”
Members of the Islamic Association of Northwest Calgary hit the streets every Christmas to shovel sidewalks and driveways and handout flowers and chocolates to their neighbors.
Russell is staying with her mom over Christmas and returned home to grab a few things.
“I came home and I pulled up to my house. They were quite young. They asked if I lived there,” she said.
Muhammad Abbas, outreach director at the association, says it’s become a tradition for younger members of the center for about five years now.
“They shovel snow in the neighborhood,” Abbas said.
“They share the best wishes of the season with our neighbors.”
He said about 100 members were out this year.
“We want to make a positive contribution to our community.”
It’s been a tough year for the association. It’s was targeted twice in October by vandals who smashed windows.
Another Calgary Islamic center was left to deal with broken windows, a burnt Quran and a hateful letter weeks earlier.
There’s been a string of anti-Muslim actions across the province in recent months.
Russell said the snow-removal gesture could not have come at a better time, “especially right now with all the dialogue going on around the world.
“There is so much fear and ignorance and a lot of people who are afraid just haven’t taken the time to educate themselves.”
Russell has a message for her neighbors from the Islamic association.
“Thank you for showing me the real purpose of this time of year, which doesn’t belong to any religion,” she said.
“It’s time to express love, concern and interest for each other.”