A number of volunteers and staff and board members at Pedvac prepared some 55 Christmas boxes for distribution to local families on Friday. Shown here, Sonny McCarron, president of the Cape Tormentine Legion Branch # 81, helps carry boxes ready for delivery. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
PORT ELGIN, NB – There’s no doubt about it, Christmas is the time of the year when more people are generous and giving to others. And while that generosity provides a much-needed helping hand to those in need during the festive season, the need continues long after the leftover turkey is gone.
The Port Elgin District Voluntary Action Council is just one of several organizations in the Tantramar region that provide assistance for those who need a helping hand. For the past several months the organization has been gathering the ingredients for the some 55 Christmas boxes that were distributed last Friday, but they can’t help but look ahead to the New Year when the food banks’ shelves will be all but bare and the need for it at its greatest.
Pedvac executive director Val MacDermid said last week that the months of January through April are the toughest time of the year for many people.
“It’s gets worse after the holidays; that’s when the heating bills hit. We’re all in the holiday spirit at Christmas, everybody thinks about giving at that time, but then we seem to forget about it afterwards. The reality is, the help is needed more after New Years than it is before. Don’t get me wrong, the support we receive to help with Christmas boxes is very much appreciated, but we need to make the public know that times are really tough for a lot of people once the holidays are all over,” she said.
In January the cold winter weather sets in and heating costs increase drastically, food prices are at their highest at this time of the year, and fuel prices – both for stove and furnace oil as well as gasoline – routinely go up.
“After the holidays a lot of things tend to increase in cost and at that time people don’t have that extra income to cover it all. There are a lot of people being laid off from their jobs this year who don’t have enough weeks for EI. The federal employment insurance program has been revamped so a lot of people can’t get it at all or if they do get it, it’s much less than it used to be and it’s not enough to get them through the winter months,” she explained.
MacDermid noted there has been a local increase in need over the past couple months. Interestingly enough, she noted that the number of Christmas boxes distributed within the Port Elgin area this year are down from last year’s numbers, because some food bank clients felt that they didn’t need the help this year.
“But those are the same people we’ll see in January through to April because they just can’t make the ends meet…Right now they think they can make it through Christmas without getting the Christmas box – in fact, we had one person who got a box last year but this year they’re doing better so they brought in a turkey…we’ve had a couple people who got laid off last-minute that didn’t want to ask for a box, but had to. It’s very hard for people to ask for help,” she said.
Because there is a need in every community or rural area, MacDermid urges people to donate to their local food banks or community organizations whenever possible.
“Food banks need food, all kinds of food. If you have extra eggs, fruits, vegetables, perishable and non-perishable foods, take it to your local food bank. It will be used. Monetary donations are also appreciated so food banks can buy the things they need and don’t get. Offer to volunteer at food banks and other community organizations such as soup kitchens; there are never enough people to do all the things that have to been done each and every day. Just a couple hours a week helps a lot,” she said.
She also encourages persons who may be experiencing difficulties to contact Pedvac. The organization offers food bank assistance, advocacy and help with cutting through ‘red tap’; as well as a community clothing boutique which also has furniture and household items, in addition to many other programs and initiatives.
“And we encourage people to just drop in for a friendly chat and a cup of coffee during our regular hours. Sometimes it’s good to chat with people and just feel part of the community,” MacDermid said.
Pedvac will be closed for the holiday season from Dec. 24 – January 2. Office hours are 9-5 Tuesday through Friday, with boutique hours from 12- 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Contact Pedvac by phone at 506-538-7638, by email at email@example.com or check them out on Facebook or on their website at www.pedvac.com.