Ucluelet’s Food Bank on the Edge Society is dashing through the rain to help Santa fill his sleigh with good tidings for all this holiday season.
“The next two months are the biggest donating time of the year for any food bank. People know there’s a need and I know that people will do their best to help us. But, I also know that it’s more of a strain now than ever on people,” society executive director Cris Martin told the Westerly News.
The society is revving up a flurry of giving opportunities and tapping into the town’s revelry in an effort to hand out more Christmas hampers than ever before this year with a goal of 115.
The hampers are filled with all the fixings of a Merry Christmas including breakfast and classic holiday dinner items and residents can follow the food bank’s hamper progress on the Ucluelet Campground Sign off Peninsula Road.
Hampers will be handed out on Thursday, Dec. 21, and anyone in Ucluelet or Hitacu in need of one must be signed up by a Dec. 8 deadline.
People can sign up to receive a hamper at the food bank on any Tuesday as well as the Ucluelet Community Centre or West Coast Community Resources Society or by calling the food bank at 250-726-6909. More information can be found at the society’s website, www.foodbankontheedge.ca.
The food bank’s reverse advent calendar program launched at the Co-op this month, with a countdown to Christmas list that helps locals donate by highlighting one suggested item each day.
“It doesn’t mean we want people going into the Co-op every single day to buy one item for us, basically we highlight the items that we like to give and that are special during Christmas,” Martin said.
The Ucluelet RCMP will be hosting its annual Stuff the Cruiser event at the Co-op on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with wishlists focused on personal care items like shampoo and toothpaste.
“That’s a really big day for us,” Martin said.
She added the local RE/MAX office is putting up its annual Angel Tree at 1917 Peninsula Road to help collect gifts for children whose families are receiving hampers. Angels hung on the tree contain the age and gender of a child to buy a present for.
“Anybody in the community can come in and pick angels off that tree and buy age appropriate gifts for the child,” Martin said. “On hamper day, everything gets combined so the family not only gets a beautiful festive hamper, but they get presents for their kids.”
She said the goal of 115 hampers comes along with an expected 10 per cent budget increase due to rising food costs and increasing need.
“We’ve seen, over the last three months especially, an increase in our numbers. Even families with employed adults have come to see us, they have to, to make ends meet,” she said. “August, September and October have been unprecedented numbers for us.”
Martin added that rising housing costs and food prices are creating rising need.
She suggested the increase in need is coming at a time when the ability to give is on the decline.
“People are really having to make difficult choices in how they spend their money…There’s all sorts of variables related to people having trouble making ends meet. The other variable is the fact that everybody’s having to spend more, so we may not even see the donations that we’ve seen in the past because people can’t afford to donate as much,” she said.
“It could be down this year. People just don’t have the extra income or money, they have to take care of their families. I totally get it, but we will make up any shortfall because that’s how we roll. We’re going to do it.”
She assured though that Dec. 21’s distribution day will be “a joyous event” filled with generosity and good cheer.
“I’m 100 per cent confident that our community will support us…We will absolutely have another fabulous Christmas hamper (day) I have no doubt,” she said.
“It’s an investment in your community. If there’s people out there that you’re helping to feed and nourish their bodies and their spirits, it just adds to the health of the overall community.”
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