The annual Thanksgiving food drive for the Salvation Army’s food bank in Smithers brought in more donations this year than the previous year.
Eight hundred and fifty pounds of food were collected, an increase of about 150 pounds from last year.
Community family services coordinator for the Bulkley Valley Kelly Spurway said these donations have to go a long way.
“Some people say you guys do everything from October to Christmas, but what we collect at Christmas time normally gets to us to May,” she said. “Then our shelves get really scarce until our Thanksgiving food drive, so with the donations that we get from our communities, this year our shelves weren’t as empty. We had specific things that we were low on but we were able to meet the need without having to purchase.”
The need has also risen. The food bank has gone from seeing approximately 24 appointments a week to 60, in each of their Smithers and Houston locations.
“And that doesn’t include emergency hampers and bus bags,” added Spurway. “It has taken about a thirty per cent jump recently.”
She thinks the uptick in users is caused by a pricey housing market in Smithers and a lack of affordable housing.
“It is expensive. We could have a mom and dad both work but to keep a roof over their head and hydro, they need our services just to stretch their food budget,” she said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the food bank still can. Store gift cards are always great because there are clientelle who have specific dietary needs. Spurway can go shopping after meeting the client to purchase items that aren’t normally donated.
Kraft Dinner, instant oatmeal, canned fruit and cereal are some of the things the food bank is always looking for. Spurway said they are also always looking for a few extra helping hands in the food bank and to help with the soup kitchen.
The need for the Salvation Army’s travel bags has also increased.
“A lot of people in our community are seeking [addictions] treatment or have to go down south for medical appointments. We put together bus bags for people who ask,” said Spurway.
A bag typically contains shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and snacks for the bus.
Every week is different but they can hand out up to 15 in a week, Spurway said.
Community ministry director for The Salvation Army in the Bulkley Valley Adam Marshall said they also offer these bags as partners with the RCMP.
“We partner with Victim Services and any women who are trying to escape domestic violence situations, we will offer them a bus bag for their travels to their safe locations.”
Spurway said they can also offer a store credit for their second-hand store next door to put together a bag with clothing, towels and anything else someone may need in a treatment facility or safe house.
The Salvation Army is now working on a new local project.
A community support unit, affectionately known as the Hope-Mobile, is almost ready to roll.
“This basically will be used for emergency response in the local community, street ministry where we go out once a week here and once a week in Houston to serve a hot meal for anyone passing by or for street residents, depending on our plan at the time,” said Marshall.
The vehicle is currently being wrapped in graphics. It will be a very visible vehicle and Marshall said he hopes it will help open a line communication with the community.
It will also offer canteen services for Smithers Steelheads home games.
Ninety per cent of the truck was purchased and built locally but it was paid for through a grant. It will maintained by the community funding.
Other than a few events and the home Steelheads games, the vehicle’s other programs will get started in the new year.