The Helping Hands Society of Cochrane & Area is wrapping up another year making sure anyone in the community who needed help, found it.
“2022 I would describe as a huge year of growth,” says Helping Hands executive director Laura McDonald. “Groups like Helping Hands see the fallout of the pandemic. We like to say that we serve the cracks that other social services cannot serve. You can imagine coming out of the pandemic, the cracks are wider than maybe ever.”
“I would say it's a huge year for client growth, a huge year for volunteer growth, which is amazing and finding new ways to serve the public and grow our capacity.”
Helping Hands has 10 programs that serve the vulnerable, including providing food security to Cochranites. “Our two free foodsheds. We have two pantry fridge and freezer locations in Cochrane that are barrier-free, fully anonymous 24-hour-a-day access just to meet an immediate short-term lack of food.”
“We stock the food sheds every single day. We've got a few businesses in Cochrane who have signed on. We have volunteers who do daily rescues to the tune of about 7,000 kilograms a month of food being rescued and diverted from the landfill and back into the free foodsheds”
“These rescues happen on a daily basis and the sheds are empty every single day.”
Whether it’s the free foodsheds or direct, one on one programming, McDonald says none of it would be possible without volunteers.
“Our volunteers are phenomenal! I was just reading some stats for 2022 and our volunteer engagement grew by 25 per cent from 2021 to 2022.”
“We're up in the 6,100 hours of volunteer time for 2022. We like to say that volunteer hours, that's our currency because our programs are barrier-free and we're not running a long list of eligibility requirements.”
"If you need support, Helping Hands is here to support you. We're able to do that so robustly because of our volunteer engagement.”
2023 is looking bright for Helping Hands with its biggest fundraiser, Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) returning with a full, in-person event in February.
“Last year, we had 165 walkers and this year we're gunning for 200 walkers.”
“We're really excited to have these public face-to-face events back on our radar. I think generosity-wise Cochrane is a community we can always count on. This is our third year doing it and we're gunning for the same target of $40,000 which we've been able to raise the last two years in a row.”