Thursday, September 11, 2008

Giving Back

A couple of weeks ago I was reading about the Greek Festival in "Niagara This Week," a festival that sadly, we did not end up attending this year. We went last year, and the food was amazing, especially the desserts. Yum! Anyhow, I was reading about how you could donate non-perishables to Community Care at the festival. There was one paragraph that really grabbed me. It said:

Community Care serves about 1,500 families a month. Due to limited resources, each family can only visit once every two months to pick up about three-days' worth of food.
Wow. Really?

I walk by Community Care all the time, especially when Kaiya and I mosey down to Women 4 Women on Thursdays. So I guess you could say they were already in my thoughts. And then, because of different ideas I've been tossing around lately, I decided I wanted to call Community Care and find out more. I wanted to know what they're about and how I can help.

Here's some of what I learned:

There are over 5,000 households registered with Community Care in St. Catharines. Five thousand! These numbers do not include Thorold. When a household registers with Community Care, they must bring proof of their source of income. This is theoretically checked up on once a year, but realistically every 18 months. There are just so many people. Many of these people are on a fixed income, for example, senior citizens. While they can afford their housing, bills and such often send them over the edge, and they cannot afford food.

I won't go into how the food bank works. It's a point system. You can figure out the gist of it.

While Community Care primarily serves as a food bank, it also gives out clothing and household goods. People are allowed to take clothing 6 times a year, and there are limits on how much they can take.

Their greatest need, when the shelves are at their emptiest, is from mid-August to the beginning of December.

A few other interesting facts:
-the Friday before school started, 114 people lined up for backpacks
-on Monday, they gave away 84 jars of peanut butter
-they have 117 people who volunteer their time each week
-volunteers work once a week, but they take extra volunteers at Christmas time

And, most interestingly, they rely on individual donations far more than corporate donations.

I also asked about what foods are needed the most. Here's a list:
-canned meat, like ham or chicken
-canned tomatoes
-stuff for kids' lunches, like individually packaged puddings, fruit cups, and juice boxes

Also, they gladly accept fresh produce. This was a surprise to me. The produce does not work on the point system, since they want to give it away as soon as they can, while it's still good. So keep this in mind if you have a ton of leftover tomatoes and zucchini in your gardens. Don't let them go bad! Take them to 12 North Street.

The woman I talked to sputtered off an absolute wealth of information. It's like she couldn't talk fast enough. When I expressed my surprise at all of these facts, she told me that mine was a common response. She said most people don't realize all that Community Care does, and how great the need is.

So I thought I'd spread the word.

It also reminded me how important it is for churches to do their part and help out where they can. I know that our church, Westview Christian Fellowship, is always accepting donations of clothing for "Women 4 Women," the group that meets on Thursdays from 10-1. We open our doors to provide a safe place to women and their children, where they can get free clothing, haircuts, coffee, and lunch. And I know there are lots of other churches and agencies that provide help. I've only just given you two to start from.


Suzanne said...

Wow Kath, That information is surprising. I don't realize how much need there is in our community. Slowly it is coming to my attention and thanks to this entry, I know even more. But now, the question is, what do you do with this knowledge? Thanks for raising more questions.

Larissa said...

When I lived in Thorold I often would collect food for Communnity Care and never get around to dropping it off at their location. Instead I'd just bring it to our church's pantry, since I was already going (not a bad alternative, but it shows my fickle laziness).

The social committee at work has organized a food and clothing collection here in Doha (in the spirit of Ramadan) to give away as well, so I'll be joining in with your from afar...