MFR asking for financial support to fill 1,300 Christmas hampers

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MINDEMOYA – This year has seen unprecedented need for assistance from the Manitoulin food bank, administered by Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR), and that agency is anticipating the Christmas season will follow that trend into the new year. With the challenges presented by the pandemic the job isn’t getting any easier, but MFR remains optimistic that its new COVID-19 protocols will enable the organization and its volunteers to meet those challenges head on.

“We have every intention of providing for the community as we have in the past,” said MFR executive director Marnie Hall, adding that “we have been very mindful to include all public health directives.”

Those directives include restricting the number of staff and volunteers inside a building to no more than 10 individuals. To that end MFR has secured a second assembly point for the annual Christmas food hampers at the Mindemoya Curling Club.

“We know that the number of households last year was up to 1,054,” said Ms. Hall. “We anticipate it being higher this year. It is always an educated guess, but we are planning for 1,300.” Should the need fall short of that mark any excess will help to buffer the post-Christmas season, when donor fatigue coupled with the arrival of Christmas bills in many households and the flow of support into the MFR reserves drops off substantially.

The demand this year will be potentially twice as much what it was even three or four years ago, she explains. 

MFR is requesting that donations not be dropped off at the assembly points this year as the challenges of maintaining a tight COVID-19 protocol are strained even with just the volunteers and staff—but the need still remains. Those seeking to donate to the cause are asked to get in touch with the food bank by calling 705-368-3400 extension 242 to make arrangements.

The assembly and distribution efforts of this year’s Christmas hamper campaign will launch into high gear on December 7 and continue on through to December 18.

In the meantime, lead volunteers are on the phone lining up past volunteers for this year’s effort. There won’t be the numbers there have been in the past as the need for physical distancing and other pandemic protocols severely limit the physical space. To help overcome that challenge MFR has secured the Mindemoya Curling Club in addition to the traditional hamper assembly site at Mindemoya Missionary Church.

Each volunteer must be provided with personal protective equipment and, as much as possible, drop-off and pick-ups will be conducted outside of the buildings. Some of the protocols and procedures are still being worked out for this year’s effort, including how to handle self-referrals. Ms. Hall explained arrangements with community partners who assist with the distribution have been pretty much worked out, but MFR is still grappling with how self-referrals will work. “Hopefully, they will be able to do an outside pick-up,” she said.

There are a number of ways that people can assist the effort this year, but there are ways to maximize the impact of a charitable dollar. While bins at local grocery stores where people can drop off food donations certainly help, Ms. Hall notes that might not be the best avenue to pursue.

“Because of the partnerships and arrangements we have with a number of agencies, we can leverage each dollar as much as six times,” said Ms. Hall. That multiplier effect goes a long way to stretching each and every financial donation.

Making financial contributions also provides MFR with a great deal of flexibility in meeting the needs of the communities they serve and filling any gaps in the other donations the agency receives. 

Financial donations to MFR can be facilitated through the website canadahelps.org. “Because we are a charitable organization and the work that we do the administration fees are very low, quite minimal,” said Ms. Hall, pointing out that the issuing of tax receipts is automatic and swift through that site as well.

For those who like to keep their giving the old-fashioned way, cheques can also be mailed to MFR.

MFR has once again begun to collect clothing donations, which can be dropped off at the Thrift Store location on Thursdays from 8:30 am to 3 pm, but those wishing to donate are asked to call ahead to 705-368-3400 extension 242 to make arrangements.

“There is a very big need for winter clothing, especially for children,” said Ms. Hall. “We need winter clothing and boots for children.”

The pandemic has not lessened the need of Manitoulin families for assistance, if anything that need has increased and every dollar or item donated is gratefully received. Cheques can be mailed to Manitoulin Family Resources, Box 181, Mindemoya, ON, P0P 1S0. Donations can be made online at canadahelps.org and food donations can be dropped in collection boxes to be found at most Island grocery stores.