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Helping Hands food drive stocks shelves for the winter

The Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area is gearing up for its annual fall food drive, Sept. 14. Residents are encouraged to make donations at bins located throughout western Rocky View County before that date. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

While summer may be just winding down, Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area is already thinking to the winter ahead – and the many locals in need who may be accessing the Cochrane Food Bank this year.

“We know September’s hard, but we’ve noticed our winters are harder,” said Sandra Scott, programs manager with Helping Hands. “And when the winter is harder, things are harder for everyone.”

To prepare for the coming demand, the society is organizing its annual fall food drive for Sept. 14, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Spray Lakes Sawmill Family Sports Centre in Cochrane. According to Scott, the twice-yearly Helping Hands food drives supply 50 per cent of the food given out in food bank hampers throughout the year – the other half comes from individual or group donations or from grocery stores.

“We’ve already handed out over 530 hampers this year, between January and June,” she said. “And this food has to last us at least six months.”

The spring food drive isn’t held until April, she noted, meaning the organization’s fall effort needs to tide it over well into 2020. According to Scott, the well runs “pretty dry” by the time the snow starts melting.

“We generally collect between 1,200 to 1,400 boxes at every food drive, so this event is really important for us,” she said. “Our numbers seem to be as consistent as they always have been, but the food bank has grown.”

The Cochrane Food Bank is operated by the Cochrane Activettes, Scott said, and has recently taken over a second bay in its facility directly across the street from the Cochrane Humane Society. According to Scott, the steady need for the food bank’s services is “scattered,” as the Activettes provide hampers to residents throughout the west side of Rocky View County.

What never remains consistent, however, is the specific items the food bank is short on. The most recent update Scott has received from the Activettes indicates the group is currently looking for canned salmon, canned ham, canned tomatoes, bulk bags of rice, canned pasta, one-litre juice cartons, juice boxes, peanut-free granola bars, bathroom tissue, toothbrushes, toothpaste and diapers – particularly in larger sizes.

Donation bins are located at Bragg Creek Community Centre, Bragg Creek Foods, Springbank Park For All Seasons, Redwood House and the Bearspaw Lifestyle Centre. Items can also be dropped off in the bins at Save On Foods, Safeway, Mark’s No Frills and Sunset Ridge Pharmacy in Cochrane.

On the date of the food drive, more than 800 volunteers will be delivering the food from the bins to the recreation facility. From there, it will be sorted, packaged and transported to the food bank, then distributed into hampers throughout the winter as need arises.

“It’s September, and we understand how busy everyone is,” Scott said. “But we really encourage people to come out and volunteer or donate, because it’s a fun way to do something good for the community.”

To volunteer, call Helping Hands at 587-580-9448 or email [email protected]

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