They say that many hands make light work and that's exactly what the Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area is counting on at this Saturday's semi annual Helping Hands Food Drive, starting at 10 a.m. at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC).
The food drive happens in the spring and fall and is run by the Helping Hands Society for the Cochrane Activettes Food Bank. According to Jackie Shier, the Executive Director of the Helping Hands Society, this will be the second time the drive has been held at SLSFSC.
"Last fall was the first time we had it there and it was our best food drive ever. We saw an increased number of volunteers from the community come out and help and we collected the most donations we've ever had. We collected 1,100 cases of food."
The food drive is reliant on community volunteers with about 550 turning out last time. Shier says it's a great opportunity for families or groups to volunteer together. "We often see three generations volunteering together where we have mom and dad with little kids and they bring grandma along."
A variety of local groups also volunteer their time, including the Springbank Air Cadets, about 14 Cochrane church groups, the Cochrane Generals hockey club, Arashi-Do Martial Arts, the Cochrane Rotary Club, and many Cochrane businesses. The Cochrane High leadership group also lend a huge hand by building over 1,000 boxes on Friday for food donations to be placed in.
Shier says the food drive also happens across western Rocky View with collections in Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows and drop spots at the Springbank Park for All Seasons and the Bearspaw LIfestyle Centre. Many faith communities are also collecting within their own organizations, including the Rock Pointe Church, Westside Church and C3 Church.
"A lot of people in the rural areas identify with Calgary as a food bank, They don't realize that, should someone in their rural community need a food hamper, they actually would be directed to Cochrane and not to Calgary. We're trying to inform people in Bearspaw and Springbank that, technically, their catchment area is the Cochrane Food Bank," explains Shier.
On Thursday, more than 8,000 homes in Cochrane will receive a bag for the food drive when the Cochrane Eagle is delivered in them. You can place nonperishable food items in those bags and leave them on your doorstep. Volunteers will blanket the community on Saturday and pick up those donations. You can also take items to any of Cochrane's food stores or bring them to the SLSFSC on Saturday.
Shier can't emphasize enough the importance of the food drive.
"Ninety percent of what's given out in hampers throughout the year is collected at these two food drives so we're really looking for the community to be generous and donate both food and their time." Food security in Cochrane is a three way partnership. Cochrane Family and Community Support Services are the recipients of the food hampers to make sure that they're going to families in need. Helping Hands supplies the manpower, the volunteers, to collect the food to stock the food bank and the Activettes manage the food bank throughout the year."
In 2016, 971 hampers were given out in Cochrane. Shier thinks because the economy is still in a slump, there are still families struggling. "In August of 2016, 77 hampers were given out and in August of 2017, 100 hampers were given out. September can be an expensive time for families as kids go back to school and supplies and clothes are needed."
Cash donations are always gratefully accepted. Cheques can be made out to the Activettes Food Bank.