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Communities rally to provide sustenance, Christmas cheer

by Jaime Myslik

WELLINGTON CTY. - Food banks and other organizations throughout Wellington County are currently working to put together Christmas hampers and gifts for families in need throughout the region.

Arthur Food Bank

This year the Arthur hamper program predicts it will provide about 55 hampers through its Christmas program.

Those looking to contribute gifts to the program will find envelopes on a Christmas tree at the TD Bank in town. Those envelopes will contain needs and wants that will correspond with an actual child whose family has applied to receive a Christmas hamper this year.

Lion’s Club volunteer Ralph Roelofsen said organizers suggest sponsors should spend between $30 and $40 “but it’s their discretion.”

Once the gifts are purchased they can be dropped off at the TD Bank by Dec. 18 and they will be put into the corresponding hamper for distribution.

For the hampers themselves, Roelofsen said cash donations are helpful.

“I don’t really know until pretty much that day what we’re short of,” he said.

“Like if we’re short of cereal or we’re short of peanut butter - because I don’t know what the donations are coming from the schools and that type of thing ... - at that point if we need something we always top it up.”

Cash donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 23, Arthur, N0G 1A0. Any money left over following the hamper program goes to the Arthur Food Bank.

The Lions will be packing the hampers at the Arthur Curling Club on Dec. 21 from 2 to 6pm. Roelofsen said cash and food donations can be dropped off at that time as well.

The hampers will be distributed on Dec. 22.

Centre Wellington Food Bank

The Centre Wellington Food Bank is changing its hamper program this Christmas.

In past years the food bank has prepackaged Christmas hampers according to family size with enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on Christmas Day.

This year the food bank has decided to provide food vouchers so clients can do their own shopping at FreshCo in Fergus.

“We looked at the cost of food in the small, medium and large hampers last year, how much it would have cost to buy it off the shelf, not on sale or anything, and then we’re making up food vouchers for that particular price,” said Centre Wellington Food Bank chair Jackie Andrews. “They can choose what they want.”

She also said if the client is away for Christmas they can save the voucher for a later date.

“It’s giving people the ability to make their own choices, which I think this should be all about,” Andrews said.

In addition to the food hampers, the food bank is also holding its annual Angel Program, which allows food bank clients to sign up to have a sponsor (an individual, family or company) buy gifts for children up to 18 years of age.

The Fergus Lions are also holding a toy drive at Reliable Ford in Fergus. New unwrapped gifts can be dropped off until Dec. 12.

Angel gift drop off is Dec. 13 from 9am to 3pm at the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex in Fergus. That evening, and all day on Dec. 14, clients can pick up their hampers and angel gifts.

Andrews said before they leave the sportsplex each family will be able to pick up stocking stuffers at the new “Market Place” area, plus one brand new coat or pair of boots, three new gifts per child, one book per child who is in elementary school, one additional gift and a sled for every child in the family.

“Everything at hamper day is brand new,” Andrews said. “We don’t have anything that’s gently used, everything is brand new.”

Andrews estimates the Centre Wellington Food Bank will distribute about 200 hampers this season.

Clifford Food Bank

This year the Clifford Food Bank has received 23 requests for Christmas food hampers - and in those households, there are 30 children.  

“Which is a lot for a small town,” said Clifford Food Bank volunteer Bruce Shannon.

The Christmas hamper will include at least enough for a Christmas dinner, but Shannon said the hamper usually includes enough food for a week or a week and a half. The hamper also includes at least one gift for every child.

“But this year we’ve been way down on our donation of toys and gift items, so we’ve been having to use some of our cash reserves to purchase that stuff,” Shannon said.

Those interested in donating a gift or items for the food hamper can donate until Dec. 19. Call 519-327-8588 to find out what is still needed and arrange pick up or drop off.

For food items, Shannon said fresh produce is always appreciated.

The hampers will be distributed on Dec. 20.

“Whatever people wish to donate we’ll take,” Shannon said. “We are not fussy - we’ll take what we can get.”

Drayton Food Bank

The Drayton Food Bank is accepting applications for its Christmas hamper program until Dec. 17. Those looking to apply can call 519-504-2346.

The food bank has also started to collect donations for the Christmas hamper program.

Donations can be dropped off at the Drayton Freshmart, Drayton Reformed Church, RBC branches in Drayton and Moorefield or by calling the food bank.

Hampers will be ready for pick up on Dec. 22.

East Wellington Community Services

East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) anticipates serving at least 22 clients in Rockwood and 53 in Erin through its Christmas hamper program.

Applications that include children up to the age of 18 are directly sent to the Adopt-a-Family program out of the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

But EWCS sponsors provide gifts for adults as well as the complete fixings for Christmas dinner and breakfast for the entire family, explained Chrissie Roberts, coordinator of volunteer and retail services.

The families indicate whether they prefer ham or turkey in their hampers.

Roberts said EWCS is asking sponsors to drop off hampers between Dec. 11 and 22.

“Then we will call the clients as soon as they come in to pick it up,” she said.

Harriston Food Bank

The Harriston Food Bank anticipates it will likely distribute between 30 and 40 hampers this year.

For families, the hampers include everything that’s needed for a Christmas dinner, said food bank volunteer coordinator Iris Richardson.

“That would include a turkey and all the trimmings,” she said.

Singles will receive a ham and likely some chicken in their hamper.

The food bank also tries to supply personal hygiene items with all of the Christmas hampers.

“That’s not something that our normal food bank hampers include, so at Christmas time we try and make sure that we have extra for that,” Richardson said.

New this year, the Blessing to You Centre in Palmerston is working with the Palmerston Tim Hortons to supply a Tim Hortons gift card in all the hampers.

For families with children, each child will receive a gift from the Leslie Motors Toy Drive. The toy drive is on now and the toys will be brought to the Harrison Legion on Dec. 18 and 19, when the hampers are put together.

Toys and gift cards can be donated to Leslie Motors until Dec. 18; on Dec. 18 and 19 people can bring what they would like to donate, whether it be personal hygiene items or food, to the Harriston Legion.

The hampers will be distributed on Dec. 20 and 21.

“When the drivers ... are delivering these ... they do look like Santa ... between the Christmas hamper and the toy sack on their backs,” Richardson said.

Mount Forest Community Pantry

The Mount Forest Christmas Bureau, a subsidiary of the Mount Forest Community Pantry, will be offering Christmas hampers to at least 120 families that will include fixings for a full turkey dinner, as well as groceries for the holiday season and clothing and gifts for every child.

This year there are personalized “Angels” on trees at Foodland, Walsh’s IDA, Scotiabank, TD Bank, Getaway Spa, the Chamber of Commerce office and The River radio station, explained  Daphne Rappard, a bureau volunteer.

“Those who take an angel are asked to attach it to the matching, unwrapped gift and return it to one of the locations with a tree by Dec. 14,” she said.

Food donations will be accepted until Dec. 15 at Foodland, No Frills and area elementary schools.

Hamper turkeys can be sponsored at the turkey tree at the Kindred Credit Union, while hats, socks and mitts can find a home on the tree at M&M Meats.

“Many volunteers, including a midget hockey team, will coordinate things so that hampers will be ready for distribution on ... Dec. 22, at Victory Church (the old arena),” she said.

Palmerston Food Bank

The Palmerston Food Bank is busy gathering food for its Christmas hamper program.

The hampers will be distributed on Dec. 18 at the Palmerston United Church and will include enough food for one meal.

“So they will have either ham or turkey or chicken ... there will be a bird or ham and all the trimmings beside it to do the Christmas dinner,” said food bank treasurer Linette Hibbs.

“And then there will be gifts for everybody.”

While the food bank provides the food, it’s the Palmerston United Church that organizes the gifts to be included in the hampers.

Those hoping to receive a hamper can contact the Palmerston Food Bank until Dec. 11.

Food bank president Barb Burrows said that as of Dec. 5 there were about 24 applications for Christmas hampers.

December 8, 2017


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