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Food banks hope to offer nourishment, spread cheer this Christmas

Getting stuffed - Parade-goers helped to “stuff a bus” with food for the local food bank during the Harriston Santa Claus Parade on Nov. 28.  photo by Patrick Raftis

Food banks hope to offer nourishment, spread cheer this Christmas

by Olivia Rutt

WELLINGTON COUNTY - Food banks across Wellington are getting ready to deliver hampers and gifts to hundreds of families across the county in time for Christmas.

The food banks rely on donations from the community to put together hampers each year - and some are in urgent need of certain items.

According to Food Banks Canada, food bank usage is down 4.2 per cent from last year in Ontario, but it has  risen 14.2% since 2008. The organization also reported 18% of all those who access food banks are from rural areas or small towns under 10,000 (up 6.3% from last year).

Arthur Food Bank

The Arthur Lions Club works closely with the Arthur Food Bank to provide hampers during the Christmas season.

Ralph Roelofsen, Lions treasurer and hamper coordinator, collects information for children in need in the community. He puts their gender, age and likes on a form and places them on the “angel tree” at the TD Bank. From there, community members take the forms and bring back gifts for distribution with food bank hampers.

Roelofsen said there was never a time where there was a child without a present and sometimes there is even a line up of donors for the “angel tree”.  

“As a community we all work together and bring the hampers together for the ones that are in need, just to brighten their Christmas up a little bit,” said Roelofsen.

Along with the gifts, turkeys, turnips, carrots, potatoes, bread and milk are bought with cash donations from local businesses. Food that is collected will also be distributed in the 50 or so hampers the Lions club delivers each Christmas.

The food bank comes in when there is a shortfall.

“We supply their shortfalls. Most of the food collections in the month of December go to the Lions,” said volunteer Marilyn Theurer.

She added the food bank will also deliver any gifts given to the food bank to the Lions.

“Two years ago we got a whole pile of sleighs, little plastic sleighs so we took them all to Ralph and he put them in with the hampers,” said Theurer.

She noted the number of families using the food bank has been as high as 100 this year - and it was high all summer.

Centre Wellington Food Bank

The Centre Wellington Food Bank’s Christmas hamper and Angel Program is run by about 200 volunteers over three days, explained food bank chair Jackie Andrews.

The food bank puts together a food hamper that includes everything for a Christmas meal, including meat for families of various size.

Andrews explained the money for the turkeys and hams are provided through a turkey drive running Dec. 7 to 24 at Scotiabank in Fergus. The bank then matches the donation.

Brand new toys and gifts can be donated to the Lions Club toy drive at Reliable Motors until Dec. 8 and through the Angel Program until Dec. 10.

“We run our Angel Program where people in the community can sponsor one of our families that have children and we’ll have over 90 families that are sponsored this year,” said Andrews.

She added 708 individuals used the food bank in 2014 - and use increases each year.

“We’re a growing business unfortunately. Every year it goes up,” said Andrews.

“Christmas is very stressful…but for our food bank family it’s even more stressful because they don’t have enough money to make ends meet within a (normal) month without having the added pressure of Christmas.”

But she added the community is very generous, both through donations and sponsorships. For example, the room at the Fergus sportsplex used to sort items is sponsored by Fergus Elora Rotary and Centre Wellington Hydro.

Clifford Food Bank

The Christmas hampers from the Clifford Food Bank include a turkey or a chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables, a gift for the children plus all the regular food bank items, said Bruce Shannon, chair of the food bank.

“We have someone who usually donates pajamas for all the children,” said Shannon.  

The group gives out about 20 hampers to residents.

While the food bank is in good shape, said Shannon, they could use shampoos, soaps, laundry detergent, toilet paper, Kleenex, toothpaste, and other related items.

Donations can be made up until Dec. 14.

“Anyone who uses the food bank is probably having a tough time year-round but then at Christmas it would be that much worse if they’ve got to get something for their children and have food too,” said Shannon.

Drayton Food Bank

The Drayton Food Bank, operated out of the Drayton Reformed Church, is one of several still looking for donations to put into its Christmas hampers.

While the group purchases milk, eggs, cheese and turkey, it relies on community aid to fill the rest of the hampers.

“We quite often run out of sidekicks, hamburger helper, sugar, flour, that kind of stuff,” said food bank volunteer Shane Stege.   

The Calvinist Cadet Corps from the Drayton Christian Reformed Church obtains a list of ages and genders of the children in need and then collect toys. Then, on Dec. 19, Stege, the cadets and volunteers put together the hampers and deliver them to approximately 30 families in Mapleton Township.

The hampers include everything a normal food bank hamper has, plus a turkey and pie or something extra, said Stege.

East Wellington Community Services

East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) wants to take care of anyone in Guelph-Eramosa or Erin who needs assistance this Christmas with its two hamper programs.

In one, EWCS has partnered with the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington to help children in need send in five needs and five wishes to be sponsored by another individual or family.

“This program allows all our families to be sponsors and allows all the children’s needs to be guaranteed to be met for Christmas,” said Alyssa Cunningham, EWCS coordinator of community services.

For those above the age of 18, EWCS will provide a Christmas hamper that includes gifts, a Christmas breakfast and dinner. The breakfast usually consists of pancakes, syrup, sausages and croissants, depending on what is donated, explained Cunningham. Christmas dinner includes turkey, gravy, stuffing and all the fixings.

EWCS is asking for donations by Dec. 18, but 73 hampers are being delivered throughout the month of December.

The organization is still in need of cereal, oatmeal, canned tuna, canned meats, canned stews, juice, pasta sauce, school snacks, deodorant, shampoos, toothpaste and toilet paper.

Harriston Food Bank

The Harriston Food Bank works with the Royal Canadian Legion in Harriston to put together hampers for Christmas, but its inventory is low.

“Right now we’re looking for a little bit of everything,” said volunteer Dave Mallett.

“To tell you the truth our inventory is getting down, we’ve been very busy this last month.”

The Christmas hamper program, which typically distributes about 40 hampers, is in desperate need of food or monetary donations, said coordinator Bev May.

The deadline for food donations is Dec. 5, May said, and volunteers will be delivering the hamper the weekend before Christmas.

Mount Forest Community Pantry

The Mount Forest Christmas Bureau runs the Christmas hamper program for the Community Pantry.

“Our aim is to provide the makings of a full Christmas dinner, plus provide enough food for the week for the family and then each child receives a full outfit of clothing,” said volunteer Daphne Rappard.

She added children also receive gifts in the hampers.

Items still needed include cereal, peanut butter, jam, juice, puddings, canned tuna, salmon, soups, stews, vegetables, beans, fruit, pasta and pasta sauce.

The bureau also requires  clothing, underwear, socks, hats and mitts. Toys and stocking-stuffers for older kids and family games are also requested. The donation deadline is Dec. 7.

Food donations can be taken to Foodland or No Frills. Gifts and clothes can be placed at “angel trees” at Foodland, Walsh’s IDA, and the TD Bank. A “turkey tree” is at the Mennonite Savings and Credit Unions and a “hat and mitt” tree is at M&M meats.

The Christmas Bureau delivers about 150 hampers each Christmas, thanks to a great group of volunteers, Rappard said.

On distribution day, Dec. 22, the Mount Forest Rams Midget rep team coached by Jim Donald volunteers its time.

“It’s overwhelming, everyone is so generous and our community is amazing,” said Rappard.

Palmerston Food Bank

The Palmerston Food Bank is well on its way to filling the 30 to 50 hampers it puts together for Christmas.

Each year hampers include a Christmas turkey and everything that goes with it, said food bank president Barb Burrows.

She added that last year, people donated so many “turkey bucks” from the local Foodland that officials didn’t need to purchase any turkeys and had money left over.

The food bank works closely with the Palmerston United Church to organize gifts with the hampers.

Burrows said the food bank is not in need of any items at the moment, thanks to community support.  

“We are very well-supported by the community, local churches and schools. We’re really doing well right now so I can’t think of anything that we are really short of,” she said.

“If I mention something, my goodness we’re swamped with it.”

The Palmerston Food Bank is accepting requests up until Dec. 5 for hampers that will be distributed on Dec. 21.

“I think everyone needs some cheer in their life and it must be very difficult when you have children to see other people celebrating and lots of food and your struggling,” said Burrows.

“And try to explain to your children why this isn’t happening. It’s not ideal what we’re doing, it fills that gap.”

December 4, 2015

 
 

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