As people open boxes of holiday decor and winter gear, Agassiz Harrison Community Services (AHCS) is urging them to open their hearts too. Here are some of the ways you can give back to your community this holiday season.
Food bank coordinator Brianne Messenger said the need for food items doubles in the winter months because AHCS is trying to fill Christmas hampers alongside its regular food supply.
“Everyone brings in stuff for Christmas but we’re still actually running our regular food bank program at the same time. So we actually need more,” she said. “We need side by side donations.”
More than anything, the food banks needs donations of “the basics:” pasta, pasta sauce, canned meat and peanut butter.
“Those four are the biggest,” Messenger said. “And we still need snacks for kids at lunch time. So that can be apple sauce, fruit cups, granola bars, things the kids can pack into their lunches.”
The food bank feeds between 60 and 80 families each month – and about 50 per cent of those are single seniors who may struggle to make ends meet on a pension.
Messenger said the food bank also feeds quite a few families of six or more.
Christmas Hamper Program
The yearly Christmas hamper program brings Christmas joy to dozens of local families, but the format has changed a little bit this year.
In past years there were opportunities to financially sponsor a family and include additional gifts, but in an effort to ensure each family receives an equally thoughtful Christmas, AHCS will take care of distributing incoming gift donations.
About 150 families are registered for this year’s program, Messenger said. Of those registered, approximately 60 are individual seniors, 40-50 are families of two to three and the remaining families range from four to six members.
Individuals, families or companies can provide a financial donation to a family size of their choice:
• $100 for a family of two to three,
• $130 for a family of two to three
• $175 for a family of four to five
• $250 for a family of six or more
Financial donations cover the cost of food only, so AHCS is also seeking donations of new and gently used toys and gifts.
While toys and gifts for kids nine and under are happily accepted, Messenger said they are not as badly needed as gifts for teens, since the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau provides a large toy donation each year.
“But that’s generally for eight-years-old and younger and we still have tons and tons of kids between 10 and 18-years-old,” Messenger said. “We’re really looking for toys or gifts for those nine and older, because they kind of get forgotten about.”
AHCS’s Christmas Gift Wish List includes gift cards, toiletries and gifts for teens such as makeup, books, clothing, electronic accessories, hair styling tools and more. Visit agassiz-harrisoncs.ca for a full list.
Finally, AHCS is still seeking blanket and warm clothing donations for its annual coat drive. Messenger said they are in need of children’s coats and so far have received only two.
Volunteering your time
AHCS has an excellent volunteer base, but more help is sometimes needed over the holidays. On Dec. 18., volunteers are needed to help unload, pack and sort food purchased for the Christmas hampers. The following day, volunteers are needed during hamper distribution at the Legion. A toy, coat and food section will be prepared.
But Messenger said for those who want to donate their time, the best thing to do is to call AHCS at (604) 796-2585 and see where help is needed.