Make the Season Kind raises more than $1M for Edmonton's Food Bank

"We say we do our work can by can and dollar by dollar. Whether it's a large contribution or a small one ... it's all important and it all makes our community a better place," says Marjorie Bencz from Edmonton's Food Bank 

'Whether it's a large contribution or a small one ... it's all important'

CBC Edmonton's Mark Connolly and Tara McCarthy thank a donor who dropped off a cheque at Edmonton's Food Bank Wednesday during the Drive to Donate event, part of the Make the Season Kind fundraiser. (Therese Kehler/CBC)

CBC Edmonton's Make the Season Kind campaign has raised more than $1 million for Edmonton's Food Bank.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the campaign's final day, $1,025,438.45 had been raised. The goal was $500,000.

"We say we do our work can by can and dollar by dollar," Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmonton's Food Bank, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM Thursday. 

"Whether it's a large contribution or a small one ... it's all important and it all makes our community a better place." 

In 2020, CBC Edmonton's annual December campaign raised a whopping $1,141,812. That was the first year the campaign's theme was changed to Make the Season Kind after 24 years as the Turkey Drive.

The food bank spent just over $2 million on food purchases in 2020. It distributed about 4.8 million kilograms of food to an average of 21,000 people monthly, according to its annual report.

In addition to hampers, it provides food served at 300 agencies, soup kitchens, shelters, churches and schools.

But 2021 has seen the demand grow by about 20 per cent, with its hamper program alone feeding as many as 28,000 per month, Bencz said.

"It's been a bit of a challenging year because the number of people needing our services has been quite high," she said at the start of the campaign.

Factors include a lack of safe, affordable housing, insufficient income support for people and difficulty finding full-time jobs, Bencz said.

"And, of course, the pandemic uncertainty means households are affected when children have to stay away from school and those types of things. It's a little bit like a roller-coaster for all of us." 

Bencz said that rising food costs put additional stress on lower-income Edmontonians and the food bank itself.

"We certainly have seen throughout the pandemic a few supply chain events happening that we've had to do workarounds ... to make sure that our food supply is consistent," she said. "Monitoring that cost of food is a big one."

Volunteers at Edmonton's Food Bank, assisted by CBC Edmonton staff, help collect donations Wednesday during the Drive to Donate event. (Cort Sloan/CBC )

Corporate donors, including Enbridge, Ledcor, Epcor, Sherwood Park Toyota and Northwest Toyota, all boosted the campaign. 

"The decision I made this morning is which colour shoes I'm going to wear," Art Angielski, partner of the two Toyota dealerships, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Thursday morning. "The decision that some of these folks out there make [is] will they eat today."

He then announced the dealerships would match donations on Thursday up to $100,000 for Edmonton's Food Bank — the largest single donation of the campaign — as well as another $50,000 for the Strathcona Food Bank.

Excluding this year's total, CBC Edmonton's annual campaign has raised more than $6.4 million for Edmonton's Food Bank.

On Wednesday the city proclaimed Dec. 15 as Make the Season Kind Day. 

CBC Edmonton has focused on stories of kindness and giving in the community, ranging from a teen-powered group that conducts collection drives to a family-owned business in Spruce Grove, Alta., that conducted a magical 12 Days of Giving to thank the community while promoting the idea of paying it forward.

In addition to donating funds, listeners and viewers have also been submitting their own stories of kindness, for a chance to win daily prizes or one of two grand prizes, including a turkey dinner for 10 people from The Westin Edmonton. The downtown hotel also donated the second grand prize, an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast for two.

The grand prize winners will be announced Friday on CBC's Radio Active program.


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