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The Pandemic did not deter Calgarians from giving BIG over the holiday season

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Blog

Desperate times call for desperate measures – a familiar saying that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, rings as true as ever. Here at the Calgary Food Bank where we support fellow Calgarians who have experienced desperation, that call was met with great generosity. As 2020 wound down, many of us felt it was all we could do to just hunker down and “get it over with,” but for so many kind and thoughtful people in our city, the opposite was true. The very best of who we are as a community shone brighter than ever this holiday season.

“There’s only one thing more precious than our time
and that’s who we spend it on.”
Leo Christopher

We simply cannot provide support without the generous gift of time from our amazing volunteers. They sort food, build hampers and receive donations – and this year, all while socially distanced and with masks on! From November 15 to December 31, 2020, 56 groups gave their time and 957 individual volunteers joined us to help support our neighbours. The total number of hours given was 12,106.

Volunteer Hours

individual volunteers

The call centre is always busy before Christmas and with the effects of the pandemic being felt by more and more people, this year saw another increase. 92 volunteers worked 347 shifts to answer 10,089 calls for assistance. Our compassionate volunteers assisted clients through the hamper request process, answering an average of 336 calls per day; that’s almost 100 more daily calls than we received during the same time last year. To comply with protocols, we needed to reduce the number of people in our call centre and change volunteer hours. For this reason, the average call wait time was up to 8.6 minutes. Long-time call centre volunteer Shelley said many of the calls she took had a different tone than previous years. People’s stress due to the pandemic was prevalent in many of her conversations.

We could not gather with extended family and friends, which made celebrations more intimate but certainly not less important. Between the middle of November and the end of 2020, 11,421 Emergency Food Hampers were distributed to our clients.

“Little by little a little becomes a lot.”

Tanzanian Proverb.

Emergency Food Hampers Distributed

Calls for assistance

We were particularly touched by the creativity many employed to collect food and funds over the busy holiday season. Most local radio stations got behind the Mayor’s Food Drive, and a multitude of unique and interesting smaller campaigns brought thousands of dollars. We were in awe of the results of the 35th Annual CBC Calgary Food Bank Drive, and Global Calgary’s Morning News first ever “Month of Giving.” Many home-grown fundraisers like reverse advent calendars, bake sales, drop your donation, “enter to win” contests, challenges, and of course Christmas party budgets diverted to us. We received donations from corporations of all sizes as well as individuals and their families.

The overwhelming generosity meant we were able to distribute to many organizations through our Food Link Program which supports partner organizations such as The Children’s Cottage, The Alex and Inn from the Cold. We provide food so they can concentrate on critical programming to assist vulnerable Calgarians. Our Food Link Program distributed 78,041 pounds of food to our partner organizations.

3,724 Hampers for the Homeless were distributed to those in our city experiencing homelessness. Most were received through our partner agencies such as Mustard Seed, while some individuals came directly to the Food Bank.

Hampers for the Homeless Distributed

pounds OF FOOD distributed through Food Link

Outside of our core programs, we also distributed food to organizations that provided their clients with holiday cheer: The Magic of Christmas received 2,500 pounds of food to put together hampers for families who otherwise may not have had the fixings for a holiday meal. We also built 300 holiday hampers for Centre Street Church.

Incredibly, over $11 Million in food and funds was raised during the giving season. With COVID-19 protocols always top-of-mind, Calgarians made the season merry and bright for so many.

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