As we think about Thanksgiving and Christmas to come, we invite you to consider supporting the gift card program to help get food to our community neighbours who are most in need. A special "St. Clement's page" has been set up and is ready to accept your online financial donations, now or in the weeks to come. A tax receipt is provided (currently they are issued monthly; soon they will be issued immediately). Please click here to visit the St. Clement's donation page. Be sure to fill in your address after donating, for tax receipt purposes. Thank you.
This 2020 Thanksgiving weekend will look different for most of us, but some things never change - and that is that some people in our communities don't have enough food for a regular day, let alone a holiday feast.
I spoke with Joe McGuinness and Philippe Segur at the Harvest Project this week to learn how this local charity - which prides itself on offering a "hand up, not a hand out" - has managed to continue its mission in these challenging pandemic times.
Philippe began by explaining that the Harvest Project has a "core" Client Care program that (in non-COVID times) meets with clients monthly to help them self-identify goals and to provide practical, spiritual and emotional support along the way. These clients are offered grocery "top ups" - the chance to browse through the free "store" of donated food items, in order to put food on the table and free up some budget money for rent or other essential purchases.
Emergency food hampers are also made available for people who may not be ready for the "core" program but who are hungry and in need. They are eligible to receive 15 free hampers, after which they are asked to make a $1 donation per bag in order to help the next person who comes after them.
Both these programs - as well as others offered by the Harvest Project - have been upended by the pandemic. Overnight, 130 volunteers were temporarily "laid off," given that the premises on Roosevelt Avenue are too small to allow adequate physical distancing. Without volunteers, there are not enough hands to sort the food donations and as a result the Harvest is currently not accepting any donations of food (or clothing).
But clients have not been left friendless. Core clients continue to receive support on the telephone, and instead of browsing through donated food products, they are supplied with a grocery card so they can shop for their most-needed items themselves. Philippe reports that the gift card program is working well, providing a means to offer aid in manner that respects the clients' dignity.
While the Harvest is currently working to establish a program whereby dry goods can be delivered to those who need them. the gift card program will continue as well, as it has proven successful in helping clients access a wider range of fresh produce and protein.