Volunteers Joan Thatcher and Gloria Brown help out on the opening day of the Christmas Hamper Program at the food bank.

Lending a helping hand at the holidays

The food bank is the most visible service offered by Community Connections — but their services extend far beyond that.

It started a few years ago when she needed help with income assistance. Jill (using a made up name) went to Community Connections to get help from Cathy Girling.

Over time, other problems were revealed — Jill was struggling to feed herself and her son. She couldn’t afford to keep her home heated. She began using more and more services at Community Connections.

“She was actually buying a bag of pellets when she could and biking them to her house,” said Patti Larson, the director of community outreach for Community Connections. “She didn’t have any furnace fuel. She didn’t have any money for pellets, which is what her source of heat was.”

The help came from local businesses — Big Eddy Fuel filled up her oil tank and Rough Country Marine donated 10 bags of pellets. A private individual donated another 10 bags.

And as Jill sat in her now-warm home, curled up in a blanket — also donated to her through Community Connections — she wrote Larson an e-mail.

“I was just sitting down to write you a note to tell you how absolutely wonderful it was to have the furnace on — I started it Friday night and lay on the couch reading a book and it felt like Christmas to me,” Jill wrote. “I had forgotten what it felt like to have a warm house – not freezing floors – and I was so relaxed. I hadn’t even realized how much it was bothering me because I had just gotten used to it.”

I didn’t meet Jill and confidentiality obligations meant Larson couldn’t say too much about her or who she is.

Her story is a fairly common one in Revelstoke — someone who comes to Community Connections for one reason or another, but is revealed to have issues far deeper than the reason they sought help and so they need more help.

“With this particular person, her income had changed and we started working on that,” said Girling. “Out of that came other problems that were either a cause or associated with income.”

In winter, the issues are compounded as heating and food get more expensive and it becomes harder to get around. Staying warm is harder, as is going to the grocery store to buy food.

Around Christmas, the issues come to the fore. The food bank, with the help of donations, gives out close to 200 hampers to help low-income families and seniors (see sidebar for more). The holiday season brings stories’ like Jill’s to attention.

Usually the focus is on the food bank, but the support for low-income people goes beyond that.

“This woman has accessed the food bank, she’s accessed housing outreach, she’s accessed our drop-in play group,” said Larson. “It’s the whole gamut of services she’s accessed over the years.”

For Jill, it meant being able to cozy up in front of a fire after going for a walk with her son, without the stress of knowing whether or not the heat would be on.

“Waking up this morning and looking out the window and seeing the frost on the ground would usually send a pang of stress through my body, but knowing that we were taken care of and the house was already warm (usually I get up and light the fire to warm the house as I can’t waste pellets by running it all night) I was relaxed and happy and able to enjoy my morning with my son,” she wrote.  “I don’t feel alone in the battle. I feel cared for and thought of. And to know that people care about my son is pretty much the most important thing in my life.”

 

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