The Holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, but for those struggling to make ends meet, the financial strain and stress can be amplified this time of year. That’s why this is when organizations like the Cranbrook Food Bank and Salvation Army, who work year round to provide for the needy, gear operations up into overdrive.
“We’re doing all sorts of promotional things for this time of year,” said Food Bank manager Gerry Oviatt. “With the Turkey Drive on Thursday and different organizations from around town are actually putting up their promotional things. On Sunday Kootenay Sings had some donations come in from that, food-wise and money-wise to help us out, this is the time of year that we actually get the most funds that we get throughout the year to help us out.”
Kootenay Sings featuring the Mount Baker school choir and the Cranbrook Community Choir performed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Sunday Nov. 29 and raised over 200 pounds of food and about $112 in cash for the Food Bank.
Oviatt also said that the Food Bank will be set up at the Holiday Train stop on Dec. 11 at 8:45 p.m. providing treats and hot chocolate for everyone who comes out to the occasion. If you’d like to make a donation of a non-perishable food item or cash this is also a great opportunity to do so.
“It should be a pretty fantastic evening with the Train coming to town and the entertainment that’s going to be there,” he said.
At the Food Bank itself, they are busy preparing their usual food hampers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but in the week leading up to Christmas they will be giving out turkeys and hams for people so they can get ready for Christmas dinner.
Oviatt mentioned that the community really comes together this time of year to help the less fortunate.
“We get a lot of support from this community in many ways, from the Chamber of Commerce itself, the City government itself, tax-wise they help us out with grants and that type of thing too,” Oviatt explained. “All of these things come together to help us operate this thing throughout the year.”
This sentiment was echoed by Major Ginny Kristensen, local officer with the Salvation Army in Cranbrook.
“I wanted to say thank you to the community,” she said, “because the community of Cranbrook is a very giving community and they always step up to ensure that people are helped when they need to be helped.”
The Kettle Campaign and the Mail Campaign, two major fundraisers the Salvation Army utilizes to fund the rest of their operations for the year, are in full swing. There are kettles set up at four locations throughout the city where volunteers collect donations, and the Mail Campaign involves letters to all the households in the region seeking donations.
“These two items, the Kettle Campaign and the Mail Campaign are our major, basically our only fundraisers throughout the year,” Kristensen said. “We’re looking to get the budget for family services, soup kitchen, school lunch program, all of that covered in these donations at Christmas time.”
“Through talking to local media and promoting through social media the Salvation Army ramps up their number of volunteers for the holiday season. They also have many returning volunteers who come back every year at Christmas.
“But we’re always looking for more,” said Kristensen.
She said that at Christmas they will help anywhere from 200 to 300 families for Christmas, specifically though their Christmas and toy hampers, but for the rest of the year, they have people coming in every day of the week.
“It’s much more of struggle at Christmas time,” said Kristensen, “and our philosophy is we want to see every family be able to celebrate Christmas and we want to see every child receiving Christmas gifts. And that’s what our aim is at Christmas time and the month of December is to ensure that anyone who is struggling has the opportunity to have a Christmas dinner and that all of the children have the opportunity to open gifts on Christmas morning.”
Right now the Cranbrook Superstore location, and all locations throughout B.C. are collecting non-perishable food items and cash donations from Nov. 29 to Dec. 24, with 100 per cent of donations staying within the local community. Here in Cranbrook, all donations will go directly to the Cranbrook Food Bank.
“Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2019 Report shows that in British Columbia, children make up close to 40 per cent of those using the services of food banks (34.5 per cent),” read a press release from Loblaws.
“Last year during the Holiday Food Drive residents of British Columbia donated thousands of pounds of non-perishable food to local food banks across the province. We would like to challenge community members to help us raise even more this holiday season.”
There are many ways to help out the less fortunate year round and at Christmas, but the need is amplified so much more this time of year, and thanks to the efforts of the volunteers around Cranbrook, there are many ways to help make a difference in a family’s holidays.