Holiday season initiatives provide hope for local families
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The holiday season in Sioux Lookout sees a number of initiatives, through donations and support from the community, provide hope for underprivileged families to help make the season a joyous time for everyone.
On Dec. 7 members of the Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Auxiliary and staff of First Step Women's Shelter will be participating in the 11th Annual Stuff a Cruiser Event.
Officers and volunteers will be accepting donations of toys, non-perishable food items and cash donations for families in need at a variety of locations in town.
“We’re going to be in three locations on this date. To start off, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. we’re going to be at Red Apple, at 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. we’ll be at Giant Tiger, and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. we’ll be at Fresh Market Foods. People can enter these locations and they can buy any gifts, and monetary donations will also be accepted,” said OPP Constable Jean Duguay.
“We’ve raised a lot of items for the people of Sioux Lookout, and I find Sioux Lookout to be a very generous community,” he said.
The OPP shared, “In the past ten years, it is estimated that approximately 200 families have benefited, and generated $15,000 in cash from the Stuff a Cruiser Program. The cash donations are used to purchase older children gifts such as electronics that are not usually received as donations.”
For over 20 years the Sioux Lookout First Step Women's Shelter has run the Adopt-A-Family Program.
Transitional housing support worker Laura Duguay said the program matches a sponsor with a woman and her children.
“The Adopt-A-Family Program matches a sponsor with a woman and her children who have left the Shelter and are now living in our community, free from violence. The sponsor assists by providing the family with gifts and donations. The Shelter will provide the sponsor with a wish list to assist with the shopping,” she said.
“For those who are unable to sponsor a family but would like to make a contribution, donations will be gratefully accepted at the Shelter and then matched with a family in need. We would also gratefully accept donations of non-perishable food and gift certificates,” she added.
Laura Duguay said donations are accepted up until Christmas. Those interested in being a sponsor or donating are asked to contact the Sioux Lookout First Step Women's Shelter at 737-1438.
For over a decade the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC) has run the Christmas Food Hamper program, which provides food and supplies for families to create a Christmas feast.
“Every year the Friendship Centre provides Christmas food hampers to approximately 100 low-income families. We do this from donations, with most of it coming from donations from the community. Business and organizations in town also collect non-perishable items amongst their staff members. Organizations also provide us with monetary donations, and we turn those donations right around and purchase non-perishable food items,” said Ashely Edwards, Program Manager at the NGFC.
“Each hamper always includes a turkey, sugar, coffee, tea, and basically all the essential items that you would need to create yourself a Christmas feast, as well as having a few staples for your household to last you throughout the season.
“Any programming that we run between November and December, we usually ask people to bring a donation as an entrance fee so if you want to come to yoga, for example, you could bring a can of peas. We try our hardest to get as much as we can before the hamper season… Last year we did around 117 hampers all together,” she said.
Edwards said Sioux Lookout students will be gathering non-perishable food items in their classrooms to contribute to the Christmas Hamper Program.
“We’re currently getting the boxes set up in the schools. The schools do a little bit of a competition, so the classroom that gets the most donations wins a pizza party. It really gets the kids understanding and learning that giving a little around this time of year really gets you a lot in your heart. Even if you can just give one item, the value that item is going to have for somebody else is beyond. It’s a great opportunity for kids to understand and get a bit of feeling for the fact that not everybody has what they have. Last year the kids also decorated their boxes… It turned out to be very special. When we brought families the boxes that the kids had decorated, they were over-the-moon to see that attention to detail and care that the kids put into all their hamper boxes. It was really touching,” she explained.
The NGFC said they accept food donations year-round to support families that need extra food security.
“December 13 is the absolute final cut-off date for the hamper applications. We accept donations at all times because, even if we don’t manage to get them into the hampers, we also have families that come and are looking for a little bit of food support and a little bit of security, so we literally will never say no to donated food,” said Edwards.
All donations can be dropped off at the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, which is located at 52 King Street.
The NGFC said they’re hosting their free community feast on Dec. 6, and everybody is welcome.