From the first flakes of snow and decorations around town to children writing letters to Santa and singing carols, the beauty of the holiday season are the feelings of hope, joy and possibility. Yet, for many in our community this year, the impact of the ongoing pandemic continues to be felt.
So this December, we’re shining a light on three organizations that are helping families through these challenges. And we hope that those who are able will join us in embracing the holiday spirit to lend a helping hand and make holiday dreams come true.
Snowflake Breakfast / Partage Vanier Food Bank
2021 marks the 16th annual Snowflake Breakfast, the largest community fundraiser of the year in support of the Vanier Community Service Centre’s Partage Vanier Food Bank, a member agency of the Ottawa Food Bank.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Partage Vanier Food Bank has seen a 20 to 30 per cent increase in people coming to the Centre in need of food. They have gone from providing people with three days’ supplies to providing seven days’ worth of food and are currently serving 350 households or 700 people per month.
Sharing food brings people together. It’s how we celebrate milestones and special occasions, make friends, nurture relationships or say we’re sorry. For many of us, some of our favourite foods are tied to a special event or person and the memory of that experience is engraved in our hearts and minds forever. This is what makes the Partage Vanier Food Bank a vital and cherished community resource.
“Food is an essential part of life and we see the impact it has for everybody,” says Jean-Michel Rousseau, Partage Vanier Food Bank Coordinator. “What makes our Food Bank unique is our ability to customize the selection process so clients are involved in the ‘shopping’ experience and having the personal touch they so desire to gather the ingredients they need to make the comforting meals essential to their families.”
This customized experience has been modified since the pandemic started, as clients are no longer able to come into the Centre to walk around and select their fresh fruits and veggies, spices, meat, fish, milk or canned goods. But the personalization remains - with clients phoning in their orders and volunteers preparing them for pick up or delivery.
Volunteers are an essential lifeline at the Partage Vanier Food Bank. From helping out at the foodbank with taking shopping orders to packing and delivering boxes or helping out at the community gardens, operations couldn’t work as smoothly as they do without them. And there’s always a need for more hands.
Jean-Michel observes “when we all work together, there is a lot that can be accomplished.”
That extends to Jean-Michel’s desire to expand community partnerships and explore new ideas. Such as having groups bake holiday cookies to be included in December care packages, preparing warm meals or dedicating funds raised to customize snacks for kids after school - if you can imagine it then he’d love to hear from you.
“We are thankful for the generosity of all our supporters and ask the community to consider other ways to collaborate and partner with us year-round to ensure we are helping families when they need it most,” says Jean-Michel.
If you’re in need of food and live in the Vanier Community, please contact the Partage Vanier Food Bank at 613-747-2839.
For those looking to bring a little hope into the lives of others this season or beyond there are several ways to help:
- Volunteering your time;
- Non-perishable food donations; and/or
- Financial donations
Businesses interested in exploring partnership or employee engagement opportunities with the Partage Vanier Food Bank are encouraged to connect with Jean-Michel Rousseau.
Help Santa Toy Parade
“Being there for a child is the most noble thing a toy can do.” - Woody from Toy Story
Hydro Ottawa is proud to be a longtime supporter of the Help Santa Toy Parade helping Santa spread cheer to families through donations, pulling Santa’s sleigh, featuring our bucket trucks as part of the parade, and providing employee volunteers along parade routes handing out candy canes and collecting toys.
“Volunteering with the Help Santa Toy Parade was a magical experience,” recalls John LePage, Hydro Ottawa power line technician. “It was great father-daughter bonding time. Decorating the bucket truck I drove in the parade route was our tradition when she was younger. Both of us enjoyed seeing the smiles we brought to kids’ along the parade route as they waited for Santa. It’s a memory we’ll share forever.”
Every year since 1969, the Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters' Association has been organizing the Help Santa Toy Parade and collecting toys along the parade route to help make holiday dreams come true for the less fortunate children in our community.
In its 52nd year, the Help Santa Toy Parade is an annual event that helps ensure that all children are able to open a gift on Christmas morning. “Our parade brings joy and the spirit of the holidays to the community and uses this opportunity to pay it forward. It is only with the help of community members such as Hydro Ottawa that we are able to do this,” says Cameron Taylor, Chair of the Help Santa Toy Parade.
For Hugh Beattie, Customer Service Analyst with Hydro Ottawa, “the holidays are a time where everyone should be able to enjoy themselves, and spend time together with loved ones. Volunteering for the parade with my daughter is just one way that we are able to give back to the community.”
If you’d like to help Santa and bring Ho-Ho-Ho-pe to children this year through the gift of toys, donate here
Ottawa Food Bank
The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us.
In Canada, 1 in 3 people who access food banks are children. This means over 300,000 children in Canada struggle accessing enough healthy, fresh food each month.
Edmonton opened the first Canadian food bank in 1981 in response to a bust in the oil industry and the mass unemployment that followed. What was originally created to meet a temporary, emergency need for food spread across the country and continues to feed hundreds of thousands of people each year. In Ottawa alone, more than 39,000 people visit an emergency food bank every month.
Since then, the Ottawa Food Bank and their member agencies continue to innovate. The addition of community kitchens and a large scale farm brings a sense of community and dignity and ensures that food is nutritious and fresh.
As part of this year’s CTV Holiday Helpers Food Drive, Hydro Ottawa made a $25,000 donation in support of the Ottawa Food Bank.
“We are grateful for the leadership and kindness shown by Hydro Ottawa. We are so thankful for their generous giving history with the Ottawa Food Bank including this incredible support; gifts like this help purchase a tremendous amount of fresh and nutritious food for our neighbours who turn to food banks in their communities,” Rachael Wilson, CEO, Ottawa Food Bank.
To donate to the Ottawa Food Bank click here
During a season all about generosity, Hydro Ottawa is prouder than ever to be giving back to the community we serve.
Mother Theresa could not have put it more beautifully: “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Happy Holidays and may your helping hands be filled with love!