With demand higher than ever, town residents have responded with the most successful food bank drive to date, Apr. 21.

The Helping Hands Society's semi-annual drive, heavily backed by volunteers of the many local churches and local organizations, saw over 1,200 cases of nonperishable food collected. That's top by a number of financial contributions that help with perishable food.

There was excitement in the voice of Helping Hands executive director Jackie Shier when she spoke of just how Cochrane area residents responded to the needs of the Cochrane Activettes food bank that provides food for so many.

"We had a record number of volunteers and we beat our record, which is amazing," says Shier. "We are already at 1,200 cases of food and there's still stuff coming in from places that are holding it and will be bringing it in this week. We're so thrilled."

People appeared more aware of the food drive this year and exactly why is always a challenge to determine.

What is known is the growing reliance on the food bank. Helping Hands' board of directors continues to be amazed at the response.

People of all ages step forward to help. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Clarke)

"In difficult economic times, many more families are in need and at the same time, we recognize that many families have a reduced capacity to give," they state in a letter of thanks to the community.  "Our semi-annual food drives currently provide 60 per cent of all donations to the food bank. Through your efforts and generosity today, many more families will be supported in their time of need."

"Today was a fun and very rewarding experience," it continues.  "Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for giving so fully to touch the lives of others. The Helping Hands Society links people who help with people who need help and that happened in a very big way today.  Thank you!"

Over 600 people pulled together to canvas the entire town and the surrounding area and there were many long-time volunteers as well as first-timers who were impressed with just how well it's organized.

On his route, Bill Popplewell, a longtime food drive volunteer, found the number of households contributing increased drastically this year. He also sees the food drive as a testimony to the genuine concern church congregations share for the community as well as the other volunteers who step up to help.

Charlene Jeffery, of the Activettes Food Bank, says they're full to the brim after the food drive and appreciate the ongoing efforts of Helping Hands and the many people who step forward to volunteer.

"The generous of their volunteers and what they do is huge for the drive."

While the drive will help the Activettes get through the coming months, it's not quite over.

"We anticipate that residents will continue to donate over the next couple of weeks by dropping off donations at Safeway, Save-On-Foods and No Frills and that our total donation amount will continue to rise."

The next Helping Hands food bank drive is scheduled for Sept. 15.