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Busy Christmas for Sally Ann 0

By Emily Innes, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin

The Collingwood Salvation Army Food Bank gave out 420 hampers at Christmas last year, which is higher than the norm. Emily Innes/Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin

The Collingwood Salvation Army Food Bank gave out 420 hampers at Christmas last year, which is higher than the norm. Emily Innes/Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin

COLLINGWOOD – This past holiday season was very busy for The Salvation Army.

The Food Bank delivered 420 hampers at Christmas, which is 140 more than in 2011.

“The number was higher than other years,” said Jessie Kent, a Salvation Army Collingwood Community and Family Services worker. “But, we had enough to fill the hampers and we had more volunteers this year.”

Kent said the bulk were delivered on the Dec. 22 and a few were delivered on Christmas Eve.

“I think the public was aware of the need for Christmas hampers and they really responded,” she said.

The hampers were filled with cans of soup, canned vegetables, pork and beans, pasta, oranges, carrots, and a ham or a turkey.

In December, The Ontario Association of Food Banks reported in its Hunger Report that food bank use is at an all-time high.

The network of 120 food banks and more than 1,100 hunger-relief programs across the province stated almost 413,000 individuals accessed the food banks in March, 2012 alone.

The report also found that about 17,200 households accessed food banks for the first time in their lives in 2012.

The OAFB states there are a number of reasons for the growing need for food assistance that include government cuts to assistance programs, the rise in living costs and natural disasters.

It states the cost of food is up by 2.2% overall.

The report said some of the largest groups using the food banks are children under 18 years of age; the recently unemployed, often as a result of layoffs or factory closures; recent university graduates who are having difficulty finding adequate employment to offset the cost of living; single parent households; and senior citizens on a fixed income.

“The fact is that the majority of food bank users are educated and hard-working individuals that have encountered unfortunate situations and now require a helping hand to get back on their feet,” wrote the OAFB.

Maryne, a Collingwood resident who requested not to disclose her last name, has used the Salvation Army's services on and off since she was a child. Her family received assistance while her father served in the army.

“The Salvation Army to me is such a wonderful organization,” she said. “When (my father) was overseas they used to come to the door with hampers in big wicker baskets.”

After her divorce, as a single parent raising five children she relied on the Salvation Army for help, and again when she needed to retire early because of a heart attack and other health complications.

She said this past year she found she received a little less food.

“But, I was by myself and older so you know how to pinch and stretch it,” she said.

Maryne recognized a lot of families in need in her neighbourhood, where there is a lot of assisted housing.

“There are a lot of people out of work,” said Maryne.

But, she knows firsthand the community has also been very giving, as she also volunteers for the Salvation Army.

“When I moved to Collingwood six years ago and went to the Food Bank I had a good rapport with Jessie and I wanted to give back,” she said. “It just makes me feel good to not always take, take, take.”

Before Collingwood, while living in Midland she volunteered to help with a Salvation Army lunch event for senior citizens, because her father was a cook and she has lots of experience preparing and serving food.

Since moving to Collingwood, she has been involved with raising money at the kettles at Christmas and Easter.

She said people would tell her they can't pass a kettle without giving or if they couldn't, they would apologize.

She said she never feels judged for needing assistance, nor does she receive special treatment for volunteering.

“Maybe just in greetings, because they know my face,” she said.

Maryne says all the volunteers from the churches or the community are “very warm people and giving people.”

She noticed an increase in the level of generosity during the holidays, but she said people are still in need of assistance in the New Year.

“Just because Christmas has come and left, the need doesn't end,” she said.

“The food bank tries to last until spring. There is always a constant need, whether it be food or warm clothing, such as mittens, hats and boots.”

To donate or volunteer with The Salvation Army Food Bank, contact (705) 445-9222.

For more information on the OAFB visit its website at http://www.oafb.ca/

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