Tuesday, 20 December 2011 11:44

Swift Current-area Hutterite colonies contribute towards Christmas cheer

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By Matthew Liebenberg — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hutterite colonies in southwest Saskatchewan helped to provide some Christmas cheer to needy families with a 25,000-pound contribution of food to the Salvation Army food bank in Swift Current.

Representatives of the colonies who participated in the 14th annual Hutterian food bank donation attended a presentation to the Hutterian Brethen at the Salvation Army on Dec. 13.

Capt. Michael Ramsay provided an overview of the activities at the Salvation Army branch in Swift Current before the the colonies were presented with their annual plaques.

He thanked them for their support, which enables the Salvation Army to provide those in need with fresh food items.

“We couldn’t do without your help,” he said.

Andrew Hofer from the Spring Lake colony near Neville was helping to offload the close to 40 large bags of carrots, potatoes and onions that came from their gardens.

“There are people that are less fortunate than we are,” he said. “Some of them are down on their lot and it’s our Christian duty to help out people like that.”

The event, which involves the contribution of food and cash donations, is a joint effort between the co-operating Hutterite colonies and Swift Current businesses JayDee AgTech, Pioneer Co-op Agro, Scotiabank and Meyers Norris Penny.

Gerry Bourgeois, who is a senior client relationship manager for agriculture banking at Scotiabank, has been working extensively with Hutterite communities in southwest Saskatchewan. He described the event as a tremendous success over the last 14 years.

“It really amazes me, the amount of generosity from the colonies in supporting this cause,” he   mentioned.

According to Duane Smith of JayDee AgTech there are around 20 participating colonies each year.

“We’ve got such tremendous support from the colonies that if we’re late getting our initial fax out and communication of when the hamper drop off is, they’re calling us saying ‘When can we help; when can we help,’” he said.

Each year, the participating businesses will have a pre-planning meeting with the Salvation Army to find out what their needs are.

“Then we do the communication to the colonies that the drop-off date is coming up and when they’re required to drop off,” Smith explained.

If there are no specific needs from the Salvation Army, the colonies will decide what they will contribute.

“But with so many colonies participating now we get a good variety,” he said.

Their contributions will vary from dry goods to fresh produce, turkeys, ham and cash donations.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of colonies that are now in the habit where they’ll do food donations during the course of the year and then just do cash donations this time of the year,” Smith said.

In addition to co-ordinating the annual donations from the colonies, staff from the participating businesses help out with the distribution of hampers in the week before Christmas. This year, the hamper distribution took place Dec. 20.

Capt. Ramsay said staff and volunteers prepared 293 hampers this festive season, which is a noticeable increase over last year.

“Last year, we were just over 200, now we’re almost 300,” he said.

In addition to a variety of canned and pre-packaged food items in the hamper, families  received turkey or ham for single persons as well as milk and fresh vegetables.

“The community is just wonderful,” he said. “You can see from what we’re able to put in the hampers just how well the community has come around. It’s nice to be able to give people stuff for a really good Christmas rather than just second rate.”

Bags of toys were also presented to more than 75 families. These were toys from the angel tree  wish lists at the Salvation Army’s Miracle Room as well as general donations from the public.

According to Capt. Ramsay, the average value of each bag of toys is about $75.

“The generosity in the community goes a long way to making someone’s Christmas that much more meaningful,” he said.

Around 200 people will be enjoying a communal feast during the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Day meal.

“It’s wonderful because on hamper day and at the Christmas meal inevitably someone comes up and says ‘Thank you we wouldn’t have a Christmas without this’ and that’s the blessing of it all,” he explained.

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