Food for Thought Blog
The Christmas Bureau
Working together so no one goes hungry is at the core of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. As we reflect on the last few weeks we know that Christmas is often a stressful – yet joyful – time of year for all of us. For a family or individual struggling to make rent payments and other essential expenses with a very limited income it can be overwhelming.
Making sure households have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the holidays wouldn’t be possible without the Christmas Bureau. The Christmas Bureau coordinates the efforts of local organizations that provide assistance to help people have a better Christmas. Every year local organizations, faith groups, community groups, individuals and families come together to make sure everyone in Waterloo Region has a wonderful holiday season. The agencies work together to make sure that donations are assembled and distributed as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In November, volunteers for the Christmas Bureau helped 4,000 households register to receive a bit of holiday joy. They heard stories of both newcomers to our community and long-time residents whose incomes do not match the costs of living. The overarching theme was gratitude. Gratitude for the generous community and the collaborative work of the agencies that comprise the Christmas Bureau.
This project brings to life the collaborative spirit that organizations our Community Food Assistance Network demonstrate throughout the year. The Food Assistance Network is a system of more than 100 community agencies and food programs, whose services support the basic food assistance needs of children, families, couples, individuals, and seniors–every day. They work together to provide services that make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy food.
At Christmas time, this collaboration resulted in something truly special – a Christmas hamper prepared and delivered lovingly by more than 600 volunteers. The House of Friendship, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and Salvation Army with other community partners work together to gather donations for special Christmas hampers full of food and the opportunity for families in Waterloo Region to choose toys for their youngsters.
The House of Friendship coordinated the assembly and delivery of 4,000 hampers to assist 11,500 people in need. This involved finding donated warehouse space, recruiting and training 600 volunteers and determining the healthy, festive foods that will be in the hampers. The Food Bank provided some of the food and our staff & volunteers assisted with registration and delivery of the hampers. The incredible efforts of the Kitchener Conestoga Rotary Club raises the $350,000+ needed to purchase food, including 4000 turkeys each year!
Teams of Christmas Bureau volunteers work hard assembling hampers in time for delivery close to Christmas day. Some volunteers have been volunteering for years creating a sense of camaraderie as they prepare the packages. Others have been given the afternoon from local businesses to lend a hand in preparing the packages.
The contents of Christmas hampers have evolved over the years as staff and volunteers have listened to what the community needs. Thanks again to wonderful community support hampers can include foods appropriate for many dietary restrictions.
Each year, the efficiency of the hamper process improves. Each year, processes are tweaked to make sure donations are assembled and distributed as effectively as possible.
Celebration, Generosity and Gratitude
The Christmas Bureau is an example of how we as a community come together to help everyone in Waterloo Region feel a part of holiday celebrations. You can find out more about this program at http://christmashampers.ca/ and more about the Community Food Assistance Network at https://www.thefoodbank.ca/network/. To read more about the House of Friendship, see their profile here.