Cathy McIlmurray right has been a volunteer with SIRCH’s Community Kitchen for more than a decade. She got involved because she loves cooking and wanted to make a difference in the community. /Photo submitted by SIRCH

Give your loved one the best kind of gift this holiday season

By Angelica Ingram

SIRCH Community Services

Published Nov. 13 2018

The holidays are a time for giving and SIRCH’s Gifts from the Heart is a one-stop place to shop for everyone on your list. The annual Christmas campaign is a fundraiser for the local charity with all proceeds going towards the food initiatives that take place year round. The campaign was launched a number of years ago to address a need in the community.

“At the time we were becoming more and more aware of the hidden poverty in the county” says SIRCH executive director Gena Robertson. “We had started Community Kitchen to be able to give away free food. We had no base funding for that and needed a way to sustain it.”

While the campaign has evolved over the years the primary focus remains the same; provide people with a way to give their friends and family “ethical gifts” with the money going to help ensure that at least one basic need – ample healthy food – was met for Haliburton County residents.

These programs are critical to the community and the most vulnerable says Robertson. “People become vulnerable for lots of reasons – job loss illness death in the family. We all need to help our neighbours” she said.

Similar to previous years this year’s Gifts from the Heart is raising money for much needed food initiatives in the county. Last year SIRCH gave out 4800 free meals to those who needed it as well as 1400 snacks for kids and 1200 containers of applesauce. This was all done through volunteers who contributed more than 1000 volunteer hours.

While some residents may be aware of the need in the county others may not realize the hidden poverty that exists.

“I think even the people who live here have no concept of the challenges that some families face” said Robertson. “I personally know stories of seniors with nothing in their fridge and nothing to buy it with or parents who don’t eat so they can feed their child.”

Food being a critical necessity in life Robertson wants to make sure those who need it are getting it.

SIRCH’s Community Kitchen meals are distributed through various channels twice a month.

The Central Food Network which operates food banks on the eastern side of Haliburton County distributes Community Kitchen meals and director Ken Mott says they make a big difference in people’s lives.

“It helps people stretch their grocery budget” said Mott.

Cathy McIlMurray has been a volunteer with Community Kitchen for more than a decade. She got involved because of her love of cooking and desire to make a difference in her community.

“I like to cook it reminds me of family and friends … it’s a nice group of people to work with and you feel like you’re helping people not as fortunate as yourself.”

Over the years McIlMurray has crossed paths with some of the recipients of the meals and has even cooked alongside them. She loves getting positive feedback and seeing the smiles on people’s faces. Coming from a large family of seven McIlMurray says food is a common thread that can help bring people together.

“Whether it’s a senior or family if they can sit down and have a nice meal that makes all the difference” she says.

SIRCH also distributes meals through the Haliburton and Cardiff food banks several housing apartments the YWCA and SIRCH programs.

Gifts from the Heart raises money through community support and this year is no different. More than 20 local businesses have agreed to sponsor the campaign as well as many individuals.

Operations manager for Heat-Line Matthew Roberts said it best when he wrote about the campaign “thanks again for letting us be involved.”

To contribute to this year’s Gifts from the Heart visit For more information call 705-457-1742 or visit us at 49 Maple Ave. unit 4 Haliburton.