By Jenn Watt
The Haliburton community is coming through again this year for area charities that depend on generosity during Christmastime.
Outside the Lily Ann on York Street on Thursday a line of people waited patiently on the sidewalk for the 4Cs food bank’s annual Christmas grocery vouchers. The building opened at 10 a.m. but half an hour before a dozen people were already standing at the door.
This year 217 area families had signed up for a grocery voucher in Haliburton or Cardiff. While they picked that up they were also offered mittens and hats for their kids a bag of candy and a fresh vegetable package.
“Our donations are up this year. The Moose [FM] did really well” says Judy MacDuff vice-chairwoman and treasurer of the 4Cs. Moose FM’s annual fundraiser for food banks brought in $21000 for the county’s four food banks. Food donations are also up substantially though they don’t weigh or measure the amounts.
4Cs chairman David Ogilvie recalls one man arriving at the food bank with a pickup truck filled with food. He estimates it must have been about $800 worth.
“I had to really work hard to get him to tell me his name” Ogilvie says. “He was humble about it all.”
Most of the donations received by the 4Cs comes in around Christmastime and although donations are up this year Ogilvie says demand is also up.
He believes the increase in demand has to do with the cost of living increasing faster than wages – groceries and hydro for example continue to climb in price while employment isn’t keeping pace.
MacDuff says throughout the year the 4Cs has an average of between 100 and 110 clients using the food bank monthly. Families and individuals both count as clients so 100 clients could mean many more than 100 people.
Over at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church 4Cs volunteers were busy arranging new toys in aisles in the basement. After people receive vouchers warm clothing and food at the Lily Ann they are told to go to the church and pick out toys for their children.
Haliburtonians were generous as ever this year volunteer Mary-Ann Dolstra says with hundreds of toys lining the tables arranged according to gender and age. It took volunteers a day’s worth of work spread over two morning sessions to get the room set up.
It’s not only the 4Cs that has received exceptional support from the community.
SIRCH Community Services which relies on charitable giving to run its food and bereavement programs had raised more than $22000 by the end of last week. It’s crucial that they do; between 35 and 40 per cent of the fundraised portion of their budget comes in during the last two weeks of their Gifts from the Heart campaign.
“We have quite a few donors who don’t live in the county but are connected to our community in some way” says Gena Robertson SIRCH executive director. “These people know our programs the situation in the community (e.g. poverty and unemployment rates) they relate and give to help our residents.”
Robertson noted that giving happens all year not only through financial donations but through donations of gently used items to the Thrift Warehouse run by SIRCH fresh produce donated to the Community Kitchen cupboards donated to SIRCH Central a pickup truck every week to gather donations for Thrift Warehouse signs and printing and much more.
The county’s two heat-related charities are both thanking the community for the support so far. The Heat Bank received more than $12000 at their fundraising night at Rhubarb has received $3200 from the Realtors Care Foundation and about $600 from a yoga fundraiser by Light Hatch Yoga in Haliburton.
“We are raising funds to provide assistance to the most vulnerable population providing them with wood to heat their homes as well as assisting them with oil and propane and stopping hydro disconnects” says Jessica Noble from A Place Called Home which administers the Heat Bank program locally.
Most of the donations they receive come in between October and March when cold weather is top of mind for most in the Highlands.
Likewise Fuel for Warmth receives 90 per cent of its donations around the Christmas season – mostly in November and December Joanne Barnes says.
“All monies raised go into fuel. We are volunteer driven no wages no administration costs” she says. The Christmas Shindig fundraiser brought in about $18000 for the organization which puts them “well ahead” of donations from this time last year she says.
Local sponsors as well as individual donations at the Shindig contributed to the strong financial position the charity is in.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation is also finding the community to be deeply giving this year.
“Our Christmas campaign Believe in the Magic of Giving has raised $80000 which is ahead of last year by $14000” says Dale Walker executive director of the Foundation. Their fundraising goal is $100000 with money going to the emergency department’s needs: infection control room IV fluid/blood warmer transport ventilator and patient monitoring system.
“The Christmas campaign is always our largest fundraising program and it is typically a time for people to give whether it is the time of giving or for tax reasons or because people relate to what you are raising funds for or because they or a family member friend loved one received good health care” Walker says.
Over the years the Christmas campaign has grown steadily. Walker says she remembers the first time they did it she and campaign chairman Don Popple were in awe of raising $35000. Now they typically bring in between $80000 and $107000 each year.