Signs that Christmas 2017 were going to be different began in September when we had three remarkable exploratory meetings.
- CBC Radio London confirmed for us that they wished to organize a “Sounds of the Season” for December as a way of generating community support for the London Food Bank as well as exploring the issue of poverty in the city.
- Business Cares – a city-wide initiative that has been running for over years and brings London businesses together in a coordinated effort to raise funds and food for the London Food Bank – held preparation meetings, appointed a working committee, and began working out how the hectic holiday season would look when it came to donation time.
- The London Food Bank was invited to an exploratory session with executives from the Grand Theatre to discuss the possibility of gaining support for the London Food Bank during its exciting “A Christmas Carol” presentation that was planning to run for the entire month of December
By the end of September it was clear that the Christmas holiday season would be unlike anything we had experienced before at the food bank. Along with these three exciting initiatives we knew that the London community – its organizations, houses of faith, schools, service clubs and individual citizens would soon be in the process of holding food and fundraising drives that would complement the work done in these larger initiatives. And that’s just how it all played out.
Sounds of the Season
When CBC Radio One London opened in the Central Library location last year it was clear that they were searching for ways of bringing the city together through its programming, planning and its annual “Sounds of the Season” initiative in December’s holiday season.
Everything kicked off on December 1st, where the morning show was set up in the Old East Village Grocers location (Adelaide & Dundas) and asked the public to come down and bring donations with them for the food bank. There were music, gifts, interviews (including with those who have faced the grinding pressures of poverty), coffee and treats.
CBC has done this through its local stations across the country and the food banks in those communities have been the recipients of all that diligent organizing. The December 1st event was only the kick-off in London, however. On December 13th, at the Central Library’s Wolf Hall, CBC again did a live show with a variety of musical acts, games, art, prizes, interviews and the inevitable holiday spirit.
These two initiatives helped to raise over 5,000 pounds of food and close to $1500. Better than anything, however, was how the community combined to promote their life together and what they have accomplished. Special thanks to CBC for making that possible.
Every December a growing group of local businesses put their heads together to gather food and money for the London Food Bank throughout the month. The very first effort some 20 years ago raised 35,000 pounds over the month, but this December was astounding – 435,000 pounds of food were donated. That was a 34% increase over the last year and some 500 businesses cooperated in the venture. It’s difficult to overestimate how crucial this drive has become for the food bank – our largest of the year.
When the good folks from the Grand Theatre first approached the London Food Bank with the possibility of partnering together for the month of December, food bank officials immediately sensed how important this connection could be.
The Grand’s new Director, Dennis Garnhum, wondered if it would be possible the link “A Christmas Carol” – the largest production ever put on by the Grand – with the plight of hungry families in the community through supporting the 3500 families helped each month through the London Food Bank. With over 35 performances slated for the month, the initiative promised to have great impact.
And it did. At the close of each performance, the play’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, directly addressed the audience and reminded them of the realities of hunger in London. People were then asked to donate cash on their way out of the theatre. The initiative became an instant hit and by the time of the production’s last performance on New Years Eve, a total of $134,400 had been collected. This was far and away higher than anyone involved had expected and helped the Grand itself have a remarkable impact in the community. Some of the cast, crew and staff of the Grand even visited the London Food Bank for an afternoon and helped compile hampers for families in need. The effects of this kind of interest still linger with the staff and volunteers of the food bank itself.
The three great initiatives, wonderful as they were, didn’t happen n a vacuum. Throughout the London community people and organizations were gathering in ways that would contribute to the London Food Bank. All told in December, hundreds of food drives were going on, of which the 500-600 campaigns occurring through Business Cares, were only a part. Families came through the month to the food bank to volunteer, generous donors send in an abundance of donations online through the food bank website –londonfoodbank.ca – and throughout London people found innovative and caring ways of showing their support.
Key to it all was the tremendous support from all sectors of London media. Gripping stories of those struggling in poverty were recounted. Media personalities were on-hand to help with various food drives. And coverage of all the events was made possible through an engaged and committed media.
And now, as December slides into January and a new year is upon us, the work begins of distributing all that generosity not only to the 3500 families they help each month (close to 9,000 individuals), but also to the over 20 other social agencies that the food bank helps on a regular basis. The funds brought in throughout this past December will greatly assist the London Food Bank in reaching its goal for this year of reaching 50% of all food supplies being of fresh and perishable varieties. Currently, 40% of all supplies given out at the food bank are perishable.
December 2017 was a month of one of the most remarkable periods in the London Food Bank’s 31-year tenure in the community. It was a season in which the community organized at remarkable levels and the larger supplies of food will now be available through those efforts. It was London’s compassion in action and we are still feeling the effects. Thanks to all who participated and we wish you a most meaningful 2018.