Communities pitch in to help people in need

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Story and photos By Heather Dilts – Baiano – Sun, smiles and friendly chatter could be heard at both Welland and Port Colborne food drives on Saturday.

For Port Colborne, this event has been going on for 23 years. Jeremy Hamm, the organizer of the Port Colborne Food drive, started preparations for the day at 6 a.m.. Throughout the day, all ages and groups came to help out. There were Cubs, Scouts, students, the Port Colborne Sailors hockey team, staff and board of Port Cares, as well as Lions members and their families.

“People are hungry,” said Kurt Rauscher, Media Past President of the Lions Club. “The need is there.”

The community rallied behind the food drive, and Christine Clark Lafleur, Executive Director of Port Cares said often when people have to “choose between food, hydro or rent,” this food is the “bridge to get people through.”

“It’s just fabulous and amazing how everyone from the community picks up and pitches in.” She said. Lafleur also said the young cubs were like “busy bees” doing their duty running food from the sorting tables to packing area.

Students from several schools pitched in, getting their required volunteer hours while helping others. A group from the  only french school in Port Colborne, Ecole Saint Joseph, under the guidance of M. Pierre Girouardo, the Phys-Ed Teacher, came together to support this cause.

In Welland, food was collected and sorted at 565 River Road, the well-known Club Richelieu. Some volunteers have been doing this food drive for 30 years, but at this location for 24.

“It’s been a good year, with a good number of volunteers,” said Melissa Kirkpatrick, the CEOO of Open Arms Mission. “Volunteers are what drives this. It’s a shared camaraderie.”

Food was collected by volunteers in cars and trucks, brought to the Club, sorted and packed all by volunteers. Churches, staff of the mission, businesses, first-responders, donars, students and families all took part. Kirkpatrick said some volunteers called in, others just showed up, it was “awesome to see.”

All types of food was collected, from canned meat and vegetables, to pasta and Halloween candy. Personal hygiene products were also collected and much needed. The organization of the event kept everything safe and flowing.

“Our purpose is to give dignity to our clients,” said Kirkpatrick. “This event will take about three months to fully sort.”

Around the time of the food drives, stores in the area often have sales for key items needed.

Mark Carl, Executive Director of the Hope Centre, brought his son, daughter and mother to help during the drive.

“It’s a great community that comes together for people in need,” he said. “We can’t thank the community enough for doing this.”

Jen Marsh, Welland’s 2016 Rose Queen, and Miss Congeniality Vritti Patel, were also found sorting and packing boxes.

Donations were gathered by drop off or by being picked up by volunteer drivers.