Launch of the Adopt a Family campaign at the Food Bank of Eastern Ontario

A grassroots campaign is back at a rural food bank south of Ottawa this holiday season, with the goal of spreading Christmas cheer for families in need.

For Gayle Hewton and Janet Carkner, it has become an annual tradition for the past 16 years to participate in the Holiday Hope campaign through the House of Lazarus (HOL) food bank.

“It’s just the joy we get from doing this and knowing we’re helping someone,” Carkner told CTV News.

The program matches community members with a family, couple, senior or someone in need, to provide items they have on their wish lists for the holiday season.

“We’re so blessed, and it just makes us feel like we’re giving to a family or an older couple at Christmas, and it helps them too, that they don’t have to spend so much money,” he said. said Carkner. “Maybe they can use some of those funds that they would spend on Christmas to pay for their rent or their food or whatever.”

Adopting families have three options: they can buy Christmas gifts, gift cards for food or fuel, or do both.

“We don’t put a monetary value on that. As you know your budget, you know how much you want to spend on someone, so it’s all up to you, and then you send it back to us, and then we deliver it to customers.”, said Kim Merkley, head of customer service at HOL.

Like many other food banks in the area, Maison de Lazare has seen a 40% increase in users this year, with 200 households expected to need the help of an adoptive family over the holiday season. .

“Two years ago there were 160, last year we adopted 150. I think it will be much higher this year as the need increases dramatically,” Merkley said. “It’s a growing need and with the prices it’s going to get worse, I think.”

In Merkley’s office, she flips through the pages of a red binder filled with each client’s wish list.

Items range from clothing and fuel gift cards to monster trucks and dinosaurs for kids.

“Usually on a family’s wish list, mom and dad usually don’t put anything and it’s all about the kids,” Merkley said.

“Last year one of the women, an older couple, wanted a toaster,” Carkner added. “We bought him a very, very good toaster. It was just the joy of being able to do this to help someone, just something simple like a toaster, as we are all so used to. .”

The program is completely anonymous, as the volunteers do not know who they are receiving.

“We give them ages, gender and wishlists and that’s about it,” Merkley added.

“Now it’s the food bank staff who have the fun of hugs and stuff and they pass it on to us, which is great,” Hewton noted.

“They do the work and I get the joy,” smiled Merkley. “There are a lot of tears and a lot of joy from what they receive because it is nice to receive at Christmas.”

Merkley said some clients have a hard time asking for help during the holidays and don’t want to go to their community for fear of embarrassment, but she says their doors are open to everyone.

“We couldn’t do this program without the community and I have to say we have the most generous community around us,” Merkley added.

“We have a group that’s been doing this for about five years now and they’re from Ottawa, and it’s just a group of people who want to share their wealth,” she added.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the Holiday Hope Program and contact Kim Merkley via email, [email protected]

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