It’s crunch time for the Helping Hand Food Bank in Tillsonburg.
To help stock their shelves during the winter months, the food bank is introducing a new ‘drive-thru’ food drive – the 12 Days of Giving.
In recent years when the food bank had a one-day Thanksgiving food drive, they would receive from 10,000 to 30,000 pounds in food, which would be worth as much as $60,000. That one-day food blitz would be followed by annual community food drives from October to December by local service clubs, schools, churches and businesses.
But this year’s fall gift card drive in October, which due to COVID-19 replaced the one-day food blitz, did not achieve the necessary results. So far about $20,000 in gift card donations have come in, which means less food on the shelves.
“The big thing that I’ve come to realize as a new coordinator is that we need to make sure that we can be sustained over the winter months,” said Dianne Clark, Helping Hand Food Bank co-ordinator.
“Because of COVID, and because people haven’t been working, we’re concerned that we’re not receiving the usual amounts of money that we would normally be receiving when people are in the giving mode for Christmas. The food bank usually receives a fair bit of money at this time of the year. As well, businesses, organizations, different groups who have done their own food drives, they have been hesitant to do that. So we’re saying ‘please do that, we need your help’ because we have to get through the winter months in order to keep supporting people. We don’t want to have to turn anybody away because we’re short on food.”
A donation of 2,000 pounds of food was recently received from the Oxford Reformed Christian School in Mount Elgin.
“They had a spot in the school where the food was taken to, everyone wore masks and gloves, and I think the food was stored for almost a week before they brought it to us,” said Clark. “We accepted it with our masks and gloves on, then we put it away for 48 hours.
“So we’re suggesting for anyone who can do a food drive, find a spot where it can be set aside and make sure everyone is wearing masks and gloves. They can do a quick wipe down of the product as well.
“This past spring when the shutdown occurred due to the pandemic, we were blessed by the residents of Tillsonburg, by their donations of cash and cheques to help sustain us through the pandemic, but no one knew how long it would carry on.”
The shelves are starting to look bare, she said, and the need is even greater than before.
12 Days of Giving
The Helping Hand Food Bank hopes its new 12 Days of Giving, a ‘drive-thru’ food drive for the Tillsonburg area, will help them reach their goal.
“We hope people will respond and purchase food on each of the first 12 days of December and then do a drive-thru food drive at our food bank,” said Clark.
Items on the 12 Days of Giving list are things the food bank needs ‘all the time.’ They include a box of cereal, dish soap, Hamburger Helper, cookies, instant coffee, canned fruit, canned tomatoes, canned meat, canned vegetables, crackers, soup, and toiletry products.
Opening a food drive up to the entire town, without being overwhelmed at their 55-A Broadway location, was a challenge. So they decided to divide it into two days – Saturday, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 – for people to drop off food in the alley behind Broadway.
“We will also be accepting cash/cheque donations on the days for the drive,” Clark noted. “Saturday, Dec. 12 everyone north of Concession Street in Tillsonburg is invited to drive your donation to the alley behind the food bank. Donations will be accepted from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
“Once you get to the unloading area, stay in your vehicle, ensuring safety procedures are followed.
“The first 100 people will receive a Tim Hortons gift card for a free coffee. The next drive-through donation day will be Dec. 19 and that is for everyone south of Concession Street, also 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and again the first 100 vehicles will receive a Tim’s card as well.”
All food bank volunteers will be wearing a mask and gloves to ensure safety.
“The volunteers will remove your donation and place them in a trailer for storage until we can safely process them to put them on the shelves.”
“We’re not going to ask people to verify where they live,” Clark added with a laugh. “We’re just going to be happy to take their donations. If you live south of Concession, and you want to come on the 12th, that’s quite okay too.
“The big thing, when they come, is that we don’t want them to get out of their vehicles. If they’re coming in a car, pop open the trunk and the volunteers will take the food from the trunk. They don’t have to get out of their vehicles at all.”
See www.tillsonburgfoodbank.com, Helping Hand’s new website, for more information.
“Tillsonburg has been a very generous town and I am very proud to say that I grew up in Tillsonburg and that I’m a ‘Tillsonburger,’” said Clark. “It’s a community that supports and cares and supports those who are in need. And it doesn’t matter what time of year it is – it’s all year long. So we’re thankful for that.”