“Oh my God,” exclaims Barbara Osbourne when she sees the giant cheque for $5500 made out to the Fernie food bank.
The Salvation Army community and family service worker is overcome with emotion as she realizes the cost of delivering the Christmas hamper program will be covered by a single donation.
Fernie Rotary raised the money in just three weeks through its inaugural Christmas hamper fundraising campaign, presenting a cheque to the food bank on December 21.
“We were aware of how many families in the community are desperately in need in the Christmas season and we wanted to try to help the food bank take some of the pressure off by fundraising for their hampers that they give out to about 70 families every Christmas,” said club treasurer Aysha Haines.
A cardboard Christmas tree tracked Rotary’s progress as it moved to different locations and events in the community.
Fernie Old School Boxing Club and Rotary each donated $500, helping the club exceed its target by $539.95.
“We’ll definitely do this again next year because the community support was amazing,” said Haines.
The food bank expected to deliver close to 80 hampers, which contained ingredients for three meals on Christmas day.
Lt. Kath Walker said Rotary’s donation will allow the Salvation Army to focus funding on other programs and projects.
“Rotary has really gone above and beyond in taking this project on,” she said.
“They made a goal of $5000 and they exceeded it, and we’re just really grateful. They’ve been so supportive this season, they helped with the food drive and they really get behind the community, and we’ve just felt so blessed to have their support.”
The Salvation Army hopes to install shower and laundry facilities at the downtown location within the next six months.
Lt. Walker said these would be available to people living rough or without easy access to a laundry or shower. It comes amid increasing demand for services.
“We’re finding more and more people are accessing the food bank, and more and more people are accessing programs,” she said.
The food bank’s clientele is also growing more diverse with the introduction of Fernie Fresh Food Share, which redirects food headed for landfill.
“…that helps people with food security issues but it also just helps people who don’t want to see food wasted in the community, so there’s a spectrum of people,” said Lt. Walker.
She attributed the increase in demand to a lack of affordable housing.
“A lot of what they earn or have coming in goes towards rent or housing costs… people have high costs of living and funds aren’t covering it all,” she said.