For most people, the holidays conjure up joy-filled memories of family traditions, favourite dishes and special treats (usually grandma's secret recipe that still, nobody knows), the excitement of gift exchanges, shared experiences with loved ones, and a Christmas morning of abundance and cheer.
Your days may be merry and bright; however, it's not festive everywhere in your community; there's an affordability crisis. For a senior, a single mom, a refugee still settling in, or family—who might not be able to afford Christmas for their kids or themselves—it's an overwhelming struggle.
Local non-profit’s, SHARE, commitment to serve the community is as strong as ever this holiday season. They're determined to ensure every senior can purchase their favourite holiday staples; every child has a new, cherished toy; and every parent can put fresh, healthy food on the table for their family.
"SHARE has always been about helping people in times of vulnerability, and at our core, it's still who we are today," says Claire MacLean, CEO, SHARE Family & Community Services Society. "Through our SHARE Joy initiative, we collect donations of money, food, and toys to distribute to those in need in our community through holiday hampers."
The non-profit, social services agency, SHARE exists to connect, engage, and strengthen vulnerable individuals and families in the Tri-Cities. They provide a wide-ranging suite of services and supports, including: assisting seniors on fixed incomes, children and youth with special needs, the SHARE Food Bank, counselling services and affordable housing.
Bridging the gap: food insecurity
With today's bruising economy—high inflation and surging housing costs—some Tri-City households are experiencing near bare cupboards, fridges with meager contents, and insurmountable challenges to make ends meet every month.
"Since the same time last year, we've seen a 50% increase of people using the food bank," reveals MacLean. "The need is massive. There's not enough rental housing, never mind affordable housing, plus, grocery prices have skyrocketed."
For some, there's a lack of identification with those in need, but when you give a hand up to someone close at hand, it can give you a connection to your community—to people you might see every day.
"Sometimes people have their own image of who uses the food bank, but it's seniors who live in your apartment building; it's kids sitting next to yours in your child's classroom; it's your coworkers, and really, it's people that once they pay rent and buy gas, just don't have enough left over," explains MacLean.
"That's why SHARE does what we do. Every week we distribute as much
fresh food as possible—milk, vegetables, fruit, cheese, and eggs—things that will really help people's health and well-being."
"Hopefully the lesson we all learned from the pandemic is how deeply we're all connected," says Maclean. "You might be doing okay with your family this month, but if your neighbour is not okay, then that's a problem for us as a community."
Donate money, food, toys, and volunteer
Drop off unwrapped toys at Coquitlam Centre from December 11 to 24, and donate to their gift-wrapping service. Take your non-perishable food items (with long expiration dates) to any SHARE office in the Tri-Cities, or donate through the SHARE Joy Giving Virtual Store, where you can buy pre-priced holiday hampers or toy shop items, and view the online food bank and toy bank wish lists for the best ideas.
You can make an immeasurable impact with a financial contribution, where SHARE can stretch your dollar to the furthest by purchasing fresh and healthy food in large quantities at wholesale rates.
You can also help by giving back and volunteering in various positions: gift wrapping, toy bank and toy sorting, or assist with food bank duties.
"Last year SHARE supported 2,733 individuals from 958 households, and we'd like to see a 50% increase this year, especially knowing how significant the need," says Maclean.
"For us, it's about people feeling they're getting a respectful and dignified experience, selecting foods that fit their family's needs and selecting toys they know their child will like. Hopefully, they leave with a smile with what they're able to provide for their home and their family."