Bitter Lake resident Bill Wilson shows how much food has already been collected the past few weeks for the Bitter Lake food drive for the Haliburton food bank. Donations have come from neighbours on the lake, Long Lake and Burdock Lake and from seasonal residents, who are overseas. On Dec. 1, the food drive’s 12-day advent calendar begins, providing specific items for participants to use. /DARREN LUM Staff

Sweet support for Bitter Lake food drive

By Darren Lum

The community members of the Bitter Lake, Burdock Lake and Long Lake area are putting their hearts towards a food drive to help residents that use the Haliburton food bank.
Leading the charge is Bitter Lake retiree Deb Gibbons with husband Bill Wilson, who would rather not take any credit for the group effort of like-minded people who want to give back.

“This is a community effort. This is not a ‘me.’ I don’t want five minutes of fame. This comes from my heart and I wanted other people to join in on that. I can’t emphasize that enough. This is not a me thing,” Gibbons said.
She said 21 people have contributed, which has yielded hundreds of pounds of non-perishables and cash donations.
“I’m up to 10 boxes of food in our bedroom. We cannot move and there’s $400 worth of financial donations, which I have bought food vouchers [with],” she said.
Gibbons posts updates to the Facebook page for Bitter Lake Haliburton (, she said, to show where the money goes.

Contributors live close by and far away, from Bitter Lake and Long Lake to across the ocean in Portugal and Singapore.
It’s an important time for community efforts like this, she said.
“The point is everybody is coming together as a group during this horrible time that society is going through and making yourself feel good personally because you’re giving, but at the same time you’re helping somebody else out,” she said.
She adds there’s enough challenges for some people, whether it’s figuring out how to pay rent or if someone is going to remain employed.
“It’s just one less thing for somebody to worry about,” she said.
The impetus behind this charitable initiative is what the 63-year-old likes to call “my Christmas SPICE.”
The letter S represents social without contact; the letter P is for physical so do something physical; the letter I stands for intellectual so think about what you’re doing and why; the letter C is for being creative; and E is for emotion so what do you feel from doing this?
“It just warms my heart. I just wanted to do something and get everybody on board and do something nice and help others,” she said. “I have a home. I have a husband. I have my health. Everybody around us does so let’s do something positive.”

The origin of SPICE comes from when she worked in child care and how they used the acronym PIE with crust, which related to the development of people – Physical, Intellectual and Emotional.
“When I thought about it I thought this is perfect. This is a perfect way to do something, but let’s change it to SPICE because it’s Christmas, right?”
She adds crust is representative of creativity or in the case of SPICE it’s community.
In response to her pulling the strings to get this initiative going, she said, “I didn’t have to pull hard. I didn’t have to pull hard at all. It was just a blurb and the response I got was ‘I’m in. I’m in. Yes, that’s an easy yes. Thumbs up. You name it.’ It’s just continuous.”

Although donations started to come for the past few weeks, this collection features a 12-day advent calendar with a specific donated item listed on each day to provide participants with a fun group effort and also provides direction for when people go shopping. It starts on Dec. 1.
Gibbons admits the advent calendar, which is correlated to her SPICE philosophy, was an idea she saw on a social media platform
“This is perfect because nobody has to touch one another or be around one another and it’s anonymous. This is not for your 15 minutes of fame. This is not what this is all about,” she said.
Gibbons said every year she and her husband attempt to do something helpful for the community.
She appreciates any donation and adhering to the list of items on the advent calendar isn’t required to participate.

The delivery of the entire collection for the food bank in Haliburton is scheduled for Dec. 15, but it may change if donations continue to grow and she runs out of room at her house, Gibbons said.
This year’s reaction to her call, she said, has led to her considering it again for next year.
“It’s just overwhelming. I cannot tell you how happy my heart is to see what people have done. Like 10 boxes. We’re going to have to use the pick-up truck maybe twice [to deliver it],” she said.