News

Community Care readies for tough Christmas

By Grant LaFleche, The Standard

Betty-Lou Souter is bracing for the worst.

There is often no way to tell beforehand what demand for services of the local food bank will be for a given Christmas season. But a recent arrival of new families seeking help has the CEO of Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold concerned about what might be coming.

“We had 45 new families register this month,” said Souter. “That doesn’t mean we are up 45 families in total, but we haven’t seen that many new families register at once this close to Christmas.”

Last year the annual Community Care Christmas program supported some 3,000 local families, which Souter said represents about 10,000 people. The program provides clothes, food and presents for children.

The number of families that register each holiday season has been consistently around 3,000 for several years — a level of demand that consistently strains Community Care’s resources.

Souter said the recent spike in demand could be an anomaly, or it could be a sign that more families than expected are having a hard time making ends meet.

“It could be a blip on the radar, but I have no way of knowing,” she said Monday. “It certainly has me concerned.”

Community Care will run its annual Great Holiday Food Drive again this year on Dec. 8 at city hall.

In the past, the drive collected food and toys outside the offices of 610 CKTB near the Burgoyne Bridge. Last year, the event was moved to city hall because of the bridge construction. Souter said the event is staying at city hall because the new bridge makes setting up outside the radio station unsafe.

The food bank is also adding a new wrinkle to its holiday food drive. Community Care volunteer co-ordinator Chrissy Sadowski is looking for teams to take part in a scavenger hunt called Reindeer Games on Dec. 8.

She said teams will register for a one-hour time slot to do specific activities in the downtown core — like take a picture with Santa Claus or find a candy cane — before going to city hall to complete their last three tasks.

Sadowski said competitors will have to take photos of their completed tasks.

More details will be released soon, she said. In the meantime, interested teams can connect her at chrissy@communitycarestca.ca.