/Community groups embrace the giving season 
Diane McKnight prepares food at SIRCH Central for meals that will be given out across the county. SIRCH is one of the local charities that depends on donations this time of year. /JENN WATT File photo

Community groups embrace the giving season 

By Nate Smelle

Published Nov. 28 2017

More than any other time of year the Christmas season seems to inspire kindness compassion and generosity in people. Local charities and not-for-profit organizations appreciate this fact and many of them have come to rely on this seasonal blossoming of goodwill to replenish their resources and expand their capacity to help others.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation is one of these organizations. HHHSF executive director Lisa Tompkins said the Christmas campaign is one of the foundation’s core fundraising initiatives.

“This time of year is often an important one for charitable giving by the many generous donors who contribute to our ‘Believe in the Magic of Giving’ campaign – both from the Haliburton Highlands and beyond” said Tompkins.

“We are very grateful for the ongoing and very generous contributions of so many who continue to support our fundraising efforts ensuring quality health-care facilities and services are available in the Haliburton Highlands.”

Tompkins said that the funds raised through this year’s campaign will be used to support the purchase of medical equipment identified as priority. On this year’s list: a new portable ultrasound machine for use in the emergency department and new accessible bathtub equipment for long-term care.

As Christmas draws near so does the winter weather which increases the demand for support throughout the community. Each year at this time local food banks see the list of families needing food and/or other types of support grow.

Manager of the Minden Food Bank Joanne Barnes can attest to this unfortunately annual truth.

During the Christmas season Barnes said the food bank provides its clients with approximately 185 Christmas food hampers. She said patrons have their choice of selecting a turkey hamper or a ham hamper and families with children can also pick up toys to give to their kids for Christmas.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who can’t afford their heat hydro and groceries” Barnes said.

“Often I see families not getting fuel to keep the house warm just so they can feed their kids.”

A few years ago Barnes said a mother of five children that she interviewed at the food bank explained to her how she and her family would wear snowsuits indoors to stay warm because they couldn’t afford to feed themselves and heat their home. Recognizing the severity of the problem Barnes went on to establish Fuel for Warmth – a program that helps people and families in need heat their homes.

Despite the high quantity and quality of support services available to the community the impact of poverty still weighs heavily on many people in Haliburton County. Since September Barnes said the food bank has been taking in three to five new families every single week. Recently she has seen several families move north to Haliburton County because they couldn’t afford their rent and the cost of living in the GTA.

“It’s very scary” she said.

“Right now we’re serving about 125 families but when you add everything up it’s closer to 200 people and that number is climbing now.”

Board chair of the 4Cs Food Bank and Thrift Store in Haliburton David Ogilvie has also observed this annual spike in need around the holidays and throughout the winter months. Every Christmas he said they tend to provide assistance for approximately 120 families.

“I see people on a regular basis who to say they’re struggling would be an understatement” Ogilvie said.

“We’re simply helping we’re not meeting all the needs by any stretch of the imagination. We’re supplementing their food budget with the food bank.”

From Nov. 27 until Dec. 9 families registered with the food bank can sign up to receive food vouchers and toys for their kids.

To register Ogilvie said people can contact the 4Cs by calling 705-457-3331. The pickup date for the vouchers is Dec. 1.

Ogilvie said that the support offered by the 4Cs is flexible and extends to meet the community’s needs whenever possible. Whether it is providing help to people to heat their homes or helping those in need of prescription medication that they can’t afford Ogilvie said they will do what they can to help. With so many people in need of support he said the funds generated from sales at the thrift store enhances their ability to serve the community.

“The revenue from the thrift store really helps to allow us to do many of the things we do” said Ogilvie.

“One of the neat things with the thrift store is that it allows people to shop for things they need at a reasonable price and all the revenue from the store basically goes to the food bank. It enables us to stock and distribute all that food. For many individuals an easy way to donate is to simply come in and shop.”

Executive director of SIRCH Community Services Gina Robertson also acknowledges the importance of the Christmas season in terms of building their organization’s capacity to help people throughout the holidays and the rest of the year.

She describes SIRCH’s “Gifts from the Heart” program as one of the organization’s two “anchor events.”

To donate to the campaign Robertson said people can visit SIRCH online at: www.sirch.on.ca or by calling 705-457-1742. They are also welcome to drop by the office at 49 Maple Ave. in Haliburton.  Gifts from the Heart she said gives community members an opportunity to give someone they care about the gift of helping people in the community they share and call home.

“It makes a huge difference for us” said Robertson.

“We do not have any base funding for our food programs where we give out meals for free so that wouldn’t be around. In fact lots of our programs wouldn’t happen without donations provided over the holidays. Everyone has their own reason for giving but ’s not really where you give that matters – it’s that you give.”