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Making the holidays more bright

Barrhead Community Support Services’ Christmas programs help more than 160 people
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Barrhead and District Family Community Support Service's Santa's Toy Box program, along with the generosity of area residents, helped 164 children have a brighter holiday.

BARRHEAD – Santa's Toy Box and the other Christmas programs operated by the Barrhead Family Community Support Services (FCSS) were a resounding success. 

That is how community and volunteer development coordinator Rae Whiting characterized this year's Christmas programs, including Santa's Toy Box, Adopt-a-family, and the Christmas hamper. 

"Thanks to the generosity of Barrhead residents, which never fails to amaze me, we were able to help 164 children and their families have a brighter holiday," she said. 

Whiting added that the number of people who registered for the Santa's Toy Box and the Christmas hampers was up noticeably over the past years.  

However, despite the increased numbers, she said they were able to provide families with the tools to celebrate the holiday, thanks again due to the generosity of area residents.  

"It all went remarkably well," she said, referring to the Dec. 20 pickup day. 

In past years, FCSS used a process of pickup and delivery. 

But this year, Christmas packages had to be picked up in person for Christmas hampers and toys. 

After signing in, people would go into the FCSS and pick up their hamper. 

"They were also able to shop at the Little-Free store, which due to COVID public health restrictions, we were not able to offer last year," she said. 

The Little-Free store is an area FCSS set up offering new or gently-used donated items that registrants could select from to add to their Christmas gift list. 

Whiting added that Santa's Toy Box was also able to augment children's gift packages from what they receive in donated gifts and from donated funds. 

She noted that the program has a set dollar amount that they use as a guideline for what they will spend on each child. 

"We were a little worried that because of the number of children registered, we might not have enough money, but in the end, it seems like we always have enough," Whiting said. 

Barrhead food bank coordinator Cheri Jantz said that they rely on financial donations to make up the Christmas hampers, as turkeys, ham, cranberry sauce, and many of the traditional foods associated with a holiday dinner are not items that people regularly donate to the food bank. 

"We had no trouble filling the hampers because our community as always is extraordinarily generous," she said. 

This is fortunate, not only for those who registered for a Christmas hamper but for food bank users in general because the demand for both services is increasing. 

Over the last year, the number of residents requesting food bank services has been trending upwards.  

"Since June, we have seen an increase every single month," Jantz said, adding they have added 132 new people to their roster. 

Many of those, she said, were added in December. 

Although some of those people are newcomers to the community, such as people fleeing from domestic abuse, the vast majority are the "working poor", Jantz said. 

"About 75 to 80 per cent of people that come to us are employed but are under the poverty line and somehow, by coming to the food bank once or twice a year, have been able to make it," she said. "But with the rising costs, especially groceries, they just can't make their paycheques stretch any further and are now are regular users of the food bank." 

Despite the increased demand, Jantz said so far, the food bank shelves are in relatively good shape, with no particular need. 

Although the food bank has resumed taking physical food donations, she said, most people still choose to donate financially. 

"As a food bank, we work through our shelves using what we have and then buy what is needed," she said, adding the food drive in September by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped greatly in tiding them over. 

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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