Neighbourly love shone brightly in Ucluelet on Saturday as the community poured its support into the Food Bank on the Edge’s fifth annual Stuff the Cruiser holiday food drive.
“Every year I well up with gratitude. It’s so overwhelming and humbling at the same time that people come out for us in such a big way,” the Food Bank’s executive director Cris Martin told the Westerly News. “We’re proud that the community trusts us and sees that we’re responsibly handling the donations that we get. Nothing is taken lightly, we really appreciate every single dollar that comes in and it’s just invaluable the support that we have from this community.”
Ucluelet’s Stuff the Cruiser event was launched by Const. Jarrett Duncan in 2014 and sees local police team up with the Food Bank to setup shop at the Co-op parking lot dishing out holiday cheer and collecting donations. This year’s haul totalled $2,400 in cash and giftcards and roughly 1,000 lbs of non-perishable food items.
“When Ucluetians decide to donate to something, they don’t mess around…Once again, our hearts are full and joyous. Our shelves are stocked and our buying power moving into the new year will be unprecedented,” Martin beamed.
She added that the $2,400 cash and gift card total marked a 25 per cent increase on last year’s $1,900 bounty.
“That is really the important part for us because it increases our buying power during this season,” she said adding the donations will go towards the Food Bank’s Christmas Hamper Program.
Christmas hampers are delivered to families on Dec. 21 and all the items are bought by the food bank, including enough food for a full breakfast, lunch and dinner on Christmas Day.
“We go all out to ensure our clients get a really fresh, bountiful hamper and it’s quite lovely,” she said. “There’s all kinds of stuff for a whole day of holiday eating.”
Martin joined Ucluelet RCMP constables Mike Moore and Matthew Crist along with detachment commander Sgt. Steve Mancini and auxiliary constable Kevin Cortes at the Co-op where they handed out wish lists to interested shoppers.
“It makes their choice easy. We give them lots of options,” Martin said. “It’s a nice variety for people to choose.”
She added watching Ucluelet’s support filling the cruiser is one of her favourite annual experiences.
“It’s always the same. I sound like a broken record. This community, when you ask them for help, they give you help and it trickles down to all levels,” she said adding local youth support the Food Bank as well. “Even a 12 year old understands the concept of what this means in a community where you’re taking care of your citizens and helping each other. This is just one initiative that is a perfect example of that.”
She added that the Christmas Hamper program helps unite the community in happiness for at least one day.
“For a moment, we want to celebrate that we can have everybody enjoying a nice holiday meal, something that they can share with their family all day long,” she said. “It means a lot for kids who maybe don’t have that opportunity all year round to have this brief time, feeling the warmth and the love that comes from this kind of an event and this kind of season.”
She said the Food Bank relies entirely on donations to support its clients and estimated the local clientele was up by about 10 per cent in 2018.
“We feel very well supported by the community,” she said.
Anyone wanting to support the Food Bank can do so at the Ucluelet Co-op or municipal hall. Donations can also be mailed to PO Box 1146.
Residents can also reach out through the Food Bank on the Edge Facebook page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.