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A helping hand at Christmas

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - Donations from local businesses and individuals are helping the Deh Cho Friendship Centre fill Christmas hampers for those in need.

The centre has been running a Christmas hamper program for more than nine years. On average the centre puts together 65 hampers every year for families and individuals in Fort Simpson, said Aaron McNab, the centre's executive director.

NNSL photo/graphic

Todd Roche, left, Deh Cho customer service manager for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and Aaron McNab, the executive director of the Deh Cho Friendship Centre, hold up some of the food items that will be going into this year's Christmas food hampers. The Power Corporation donated $1,000 to the program in Fort Simpson. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

If there are enough supplies hampers are also made for residents in Wrigley, Jean Marie River and Trout Lake. The hampers are filled with food items that come from the Salvation Army, the centre's own shopping list and local donations, McNab said.

This year a significant donation of $1,000 came from the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. The corporation has donated in the past but always in smaller amounts, McNab said. The donation will allow the centre to purchase more food and fill more hampers, he said.

When the centre sends out its yearly donation request, small organizations in the community normally come forward with donations between $100 to $300, said McNab. Other groups and individuals also bring in food items including Bompas Elementary School where the students gathered 847 non-perishable food items this year. The centre also has no trouble finding volunteers to deliver the finished hampers, he said.

The hampers assist people who need some extra help during the holidays.

"Food and presents always come at a hard cost on limited budgets," he said.

"Because it's a small community we know who's who and what's needed."

For a large family the hampers can include items such as a turkey and a ham, five pounds of potatoes, boxes of stuffing and scalloped potato mixes, Kraft Dinner and assorted canned goods. Flour, tea, coffee, sugar and powered milk are also added.

The number of people in need in the village is constant but the degree of need changes, said McNab. There are fewer residents with no food at all, and more who can't afford the healthy basics like fruits and vegetables, he said.

In addition to the Christmas hamper program, the centre has started two programs to help address the local need.

The centre has been running a food bank since October using funding from the Community Homeless Fund. In the past the centre gave out small amounts of food to individuals who were sent to them. Now people can come in and request food.

"We've been having more people coming in for it," said McNab.

Demand is up from two to three hampers a month to between one to three a week.

The centre has also been running a soup kitchen every Thursday for the past month. Between 14 to 17 individuals come in regularly, said McNab.

"The need was always there, we're just able to deal with more people," said McNab about the new programs.

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