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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Neighbour to Neighbour Centre volunteers Mary Millar (front) and Jan Bondy-Chorney were helping out at the Christmas store recently at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church on Mohawk Road West.

Spreading holiday cheer

1,500 Mountain families use N2N Christmas stores

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

Some clients started arriving an hour or so before the doors opened.

About 1,500 mostly Mountain families picked up food and toys recently at two Christmas stores run by Neighbour to Neighbour Centre and a small army of volunteers.

“The demand is not decreasing,” said Clare Wagner, manager of community food at theAthens Streetcentre.

Wagner noted their annual Christmas hamper program has been serving about 1,500 families for the last few years.

That’s pretty much the maximum number they can serve.

But given more resources, Wagner said that number could easily reach 2,000.

Most of their clients are either the working poor (families with jobs that don’t pay enough to cover rent and food) or those on social assistance.

Families registered for the hamper program from Oct. 21 to Nov. 28, although Wagner noted they were still taking some registrations last week and clients shopped for their food and toys at prearranged dates and times.

About 400 people braved snowy conditions on Dec. 13 and 14 to visit the Christmas store at Emmanuel United Church on Upper Ottawa Street and about 1,100 clients came out to the store at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church on Mohawk Road West last week.

Volunteers arrived early to set up and stock the tables.

Wagner noted the hamper program would not be possible without the help of about 600 volunteers who assisted with everything from planning, to restocking the tables through the day to helping clients carry out their food and toys.

“Every family leaves with enough food for Christmas day or any holiday they choose to celebrate,” Wagner said.

That includes bags of potatoes, carrots and onions.

Families who inquired about the hamper program after they reached the 1,500 limit have been referred to other social agencies in the city, Wagner said.

The food bank at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre typically provides food for as many as 1,300 families each month.


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