Serving over 250 families and 260 children on a regular basis, the Rockland Help Centre experiences a surge in need around the holidays. This year that need is likely to exceed anything they have seen in the past.
“The holidays are particularly difficult,” said Tom Gaul, a volunteer at the Rockland Help Centre. “A combination of seasonal work coming to an end, higher electricity bills and the pressure of getting gifts makes the food banks extra busy through the winter.”
Councillor Carl Grimard, a longtime supporter of the Rockland Help Centre, believes the food bank is an integral part of the community, particularly during the holidays.
“They take care of families we can’t,” said Grimard. “I am always touched by the immense work this organization does in our community.”
Inflation is also driving more families to use food bank services across the country. According to Food Bank Canada’s annual hunger count, food bank visits in Ontario are up 16 per cent over the last year, and 43 per cent since 2019, nearly a third of which are children.
« With the increase in food costs, and general living expenses, we have had more residents reach out for help, » stated André Perras, president of the Rockland Help Centre.
The need also goes beyond canned goods and dry pasta. Toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and other toiletries are often overlooked as items to donate.
“We get a lot of pasta, canned beans, and that sort of stuff,” said Gaul. “And all of it is great. We share the extra with other food banks. But those toiletry items are expensive and really important for our clients.”
While donations of non-perishable items will not be turned down, the Rockland Help Centre is most in need of monetary support. Help Centre clients choose from a menu of items, so cash donations are the best way to ensure families are getting the products they want and need the most, while also providing them with a healthier, more balanced diet.
With a 100 per cent volunteer staff of approximately 100, all donations, as well as revenue from the centre’s thrift store, benefit the food bank and the families they serve.
In partnership with the radio station Hot Country 92.5 (CHRC-FM), the Help Centre is hosting a radiothon at Parent’s Independent on Laurier Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 10. The day-long event will accept donations over the phone and in person, as well as receive non-perishable food items at the grocery store. Prizes will be given out throughout the event.
Donations can be made through the Rockland Help Centre website, e-transfer, cash and cheque. Details on how to donate and receive, and how to get a tax receipt are available online.
Food, clothing and toiletry donations can be made directly at the food bank. The centre requests those looking to donate call ahead to organize a pick-up time.