By Mike Pearson, News staff
They are victims of domestic violence and seniors struggling to live on Canada Pension Plan benefits. Some share a house or rent a basement apartment. Others are youth facing barriers to employment or recent immigrants sharing a home with extended family.
In Ancaster, poverty can be tougher to spot. But Karen Thomson knows it exists.
“The biggest challenge is making people realize there is a need in Ancaster,” said Thomson, executive director of Ancaster Community Services.
Statistics compiled by the Social Research and Planning Council of Hamilton show Ancaster had over 2,000 residents living on incomes below the poverty line in 2009. The same study shows Ancaster is one of Hamilton’s most ethnically diverse areas with one in 10 residents identifying with a visible minority group.
Registration for the ACS Christmas Outreach Program officially began on Nov. 1. In October, Thomson was already estimating a 34 per cent increase in support above last year’s levels.
Thirty seven families are already registered for the Christmas Hamper program as of Nov. 26. Throughout the year, ACS has experienced a 25 per cent increase in requests for food assistance and other support services.
In addition to the Christmas Outreach campaign which distributes food and gifts, more and more people are turning to ACS on a year-round basis.
Alethea Ouzas, community outreach worker, said 25 to 35 individuals receive some form of assistance from ACS each month, from food vouchers to employment counseling or referrals for other services.
Donations of non-perishable food items, toiletries, toys, scarves and mittens will be collected during the
Ancaster tree lighting ceremony next Thursday (Dec. 6).
Donors can also sponsor a family for the holiday season by donating to ACS. A $40 donation buys a turkey for a holiday meal. You can outfit a family with winter clothing for $175, help purchase groceries for $100, set aside $150 for toys and gifts or donate $300 for Christmas gifts and a complete family dinner. All donations over $10 are eligible for a tax receipt.
While ACS has a food closet in the Ancaster Municipal Centre, the organization also distributes food vouchers for local grocery stores. Donors are welcome to contribute gift cards as well for groceries, department stores, restaurants and toy stores.
When donors step forward to sponsor a family, Thomson can provide the first names, ages and genders of the children to help contributors purchase appropriate gifts.
Donations of cash and grocery store gift cards are ideal, especially for special dietary requests.
ACS has recently partnered with St. John’s Anglican Church for the Good Food Box program which distributes fresh produce. For more information or to donate, call St. John’s at 905-648-2353.
Contact Ancaster Community Services at 905-648-6675, visit their website at www.ancastercommunityservices.ca or click like on their Facebook page.