News

Welland comes together for food drive

By The Tribune

As trucks and cars pulled into Welland’s Auberge Richelieu, they were swarmed by an army of volunteers and the non-perishable items on board quickly moved to a long table.

More volunteers at those tables Saturday worked to organize the items and get them packed into boxes, which were then moved into two transport trucks and a storage bin.

Two of those volunteers at the 25th annual Welland Food Drive were Donna Bitondo and Rose Digout.

“This is my first time. My friend works at the Salvation Army every week and said they needed helpers,” said Bitondo. “So my husband and I came out today.”

Bitondo said she loved seeing all of the volunteers who were at the club on River Road helping out.

“It shows the care we have in our community, it warms my heart,” she said, adding she’ll be back to help out at next year’s food drive.

Digout said she’s volunteered at the food drive, which stocks food banks at The Hope Centre, Open Arms Mission and Salvation Army, for about six years.

“I’ve been a volunteer at the Salvation Army for a long time and I think this a really important cause. There’s a really good turnout today.”

Digout said in the time she’s been volunteering at the food drive, she’s watched it improve in terms of efficiency.

“Things run smoothly and it’s improved every year.”

Digout said it was great to see volunteers of all ages working together and added the people of Welland appeared to be very giving.

Food drive co-ordinator Monique Finley said she’s been involved in the communitywide event 15 years and now sees three generations of families coming out to volunteer.

“We have up to 600 people helping out. We were light on volunteers last year and a call went out (this year) and the people of Welland responded,” said Finley.

She credited Auberge Richelieu for being the backbone of the food drive for the past 25 years, and the Craig family — local Tim Hortons franchise owners — for their support as well.

Finley said the need for the food drive this year was critically important.

“The food bank shelves are nearly empty and we’ve got to keep them replenished.

“People need a helping hand and Welland responded,” she said.

Hope Centre executive director Mark Carl said it was amazing to see all of the volunteers who came out. He thanked them and the whole community for coming together to help their fellow citizens.

“There are hundreds volunteering to make sure there is food on the shelves.”

Carl said with Hope Centre being a member of the Ontario Association of Food Banks and Food Banks Canada he’s had an opportunity to work with food banks in communities across the province.

“They’re envious of Welland, Port Colborne and Pelham … how the communities come together, put food on the porch and other community members come to pick it up.”

Carl said, sadly, the need for the food banks is increasing because of high costs of rent and energy. People will forego food over rent and paying utility bills, he added.

At Hope Centre, there are up to 700 people a month, 300 to 400 of those being children, depending on its food bank, he said.

The food collected Saturday, split evenly as possible between the three food banks, will last each between six and eight months. Smaller food drives throughout the year help keep shelves stocked to meet needs.

“Winter is the toughest time of the year,” Carl said, thanking the community for coming together and making the city a great place.

dajohnson@postmedia.com



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