MFR food hampers helped nearly 950 people at Christmastime this year

Over 60 volunteers helped to pack the annual Christmas food hampers for Islanders in need. Pictured are Marilyn Viljanmaa of Mindemoya and Irene Callaghan of Honora Bay, who also helped to organize the event. (2019)

MINDEMOYA—Every December, for about a week, the Mindemoya Missionary Church is bustling on all levels with about 65 volunteers busy packing Christmas food hampers for those in need.

This is an initiative of Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR), headed by Denise Leblanc, and which has provided this assistance for many years. In that time, MFR has watched the numbers of people needing this help steadily increasing. It is expected that this year close to 950 people will receive food baskets as well as knitted goods and toys for the children.

For a family of four or more, the hamper will include a turkey, along with stuffing mix and cranberry sauce, while single individuals will receive a small ham and a family of two or more, a large ham. The Christmas food box for all will also include cereal, canned vegetables, canned soups, a large apple sauce, pancake mix and syrup, soda crackers, margarine and whole wheat bread, potatoes, carrots, onions and mandarin oranges. There are also miscellaneous items that have been donated by Islanders and if there are children in the family, the hampers contain items such as Kraft Dinner, Cheez Whiz and granola bars.

Every child also receives a knitted hat, mitts and a scarf, courtesy of Manitoulin knitters. There are also toys for the kids, donated by the Sudbury Lions Club, the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and the OPP toy drive.

Marilyn Viljanmaa of Mindemoya has volunteered for MFR for 13 years, while Irene Callaghan of Honora Bay has been on board for nine years and the two women also help to organize this annual Christmas hamper event. They spoke with The Recorder and explained that the whole process begins each January with a close-up meeting where they prepare for the coming year and streamline a little bit to make the organizing even more efficient. They will then meet again in October to make final plans for the December packing. 

The organizing team also includes MFR Acting Executive Director Lisa Lanktree, Executive Program Assistance Denise Leblanc, Shelter Coordinator Carrianne Agawa and volunteers Joan Beard who organizes the toys and teenager gifts, Linda Gilchrist, who manages the food bank and submits referral slips for the food hampers and Linda Hagan, who not only coordinates the kitchen during the Christmas hamper week to provide tea breaks and lunches for the volunteers, but also dos some baking and cooking. 

“We have a lot of really good volunteers,” Ms. Callaghan noted.

She also spoke of the very good work that is done by UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service who not only run a toy drive but also help with the set-up for this event.