Over 3,000 people attend Homeland Mission’s back to school giveaway in Little Current

Folks lined up to take home an incredible 560,000 pounds of free food and supplies during the Homeland Mission annual food giveaway held last Saturday. Tristan Eadie, 7, right, volunteers at the Kid’s Zone. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

LITTLE CURRENT – A whopping 560,000 pounds of food and supplies was on offer, all for free, during Homeland Mission’s annual food giveaway held last Saturday at the Flat Rock Entertainment Centre (FREC) on Harbour Vue Road Little Current.

Rodney (Barney) Deforge was ecstatic about the turnout of what he’s termed “the biggest giveaway yet.”

“We had 560 skids, roughly 1,000 pounds per skid, at the grounds,” he told The Expositor in a Monday interview. The average worth of those skids of food, supplies and toys? “It comes out to about $2.1 million,” Mr. Deforge said.

While the 60 volunteers, including Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha, managed to help the thousands on hand to load up their takeaways, still some remained. This has since been trucked off to other communities and shared with others who need it.

Saturday saw 575 cars and 3,000 from 53 communities, including every single one of Manitoulin’s towns and First Nations. Over 1,900 families were helped with back to school just around the corner.

Some people began to line up outside the Country Fest grounds at 6:30 am that morning while others slept overnight in the nearby arena parking lot.

Of those 60 volunteers, 17 of them were under the age of 15, including Little Current’s Tristan Eadie, age 7, who was in charge of letting the kids know that they were allowed two items per person when picking out games for their video game consoles. One large group of 14-year-olds was dropped off by their parents and asked to volunteer their time.

“To me that just speaks volumes—a group of 14-year-olds dropped off into our care and helping to load cars all day—it was incredible to watch,” Mr. Deforge noted.

Mr. Deforge said he spoke to many of the families and was touched by one family in particular. A mother of seven from Elliot Lake heard about the giveaway and made the trek with her 11-year-old son to load up on supplies, especially hygiene items like soaps and shampoos for her five girls. When Mr. Deforge told the boy to head over to the kids’ zone to pick out some games and toys, the mother responded that she needed her son to help her and he couldn’t go. Because of her mobility issues, she told Mr. Deforge that with 20 minutes to spend inside the grounds, her son’s help was crucial to get everything she needed. Mr. Deforge then waived the 20-minute limit to make sure the son got to the kids’ zone.

“To me the kids’ zone was phenomenal,” he continued. “I think it went over amazingly well.”

The FREC grounds have already been booked for the same weekend next year for another back to school giveaway.

“The Country Fest grounds are the absolute best place to hold this,” Mr. Deforge said, noting that Little Current businesses still get the economic spinoff from the event without the backup of traffic in the town.

Mr. Deforge went on to the thanks Craig and Kelly Timmermans for their loan of the property, Mr. Mantha and Ms. Hughes and his army of volunteers for their hard work.

“It really was a community event, the community pulling together the way it should,” he added. “It was an excellent event and we need to continue it.”