Two local charities say many families will be enjoying a brighter Christmas this year thanks to the generosity of Londoners.
On Thursday, organizers with the Business Cares Food Drive and the Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper Program released their campaign’s final numbers.
The Business Cares Food Drive saw just over 325,000 pounds of food collected for this year’s edition of the campaign, an increase of about 18,000 pounds compared to last year, said drive co-chair Wayne Dunn.
Dunn says a last-minute plea for donations saw a stellar response from the community.
“The generosity and kindness of Londoners over the last 24 hours has just been amazing. We were so short 24 hours ago, we’ve exceeded our total by five per cent,” said Dunn. “Last year we were 307,000 pounds, so it’s a truly amazing feat, especially with the last minute push that we had to do.”
Dunn says about 80 to 90 people turned out to the drive’s warehouse on Thursday morning to pitch in as the campaign wrapped up.
“We were celebrating the campaign, and the cheques that came out … just totally blew me away,” said Dunn. “This is the 17th year of the campaign, and we’ve exceeded every year, not by a lot, but we pretty well made our goal, and it was a lofty one, especially with (food bank) demand being up 12 per cent year over year. Our five per cent increase will put a dent into that extra usage and the demand that’s being needed down at the Food Bank now.”
As for the Sally Ann’s Christmas Hamper program, organizers say they were able to distribute food hampers to 5,117 local families this Christmas season, while 6,663 children received a bag of toys. In a media release, organizers added the campaign received an “overwhelming amount of toy donations” this month, a significant amount of it during distribution week.
“As we faced critical shortages and asked for help, Londoners came through over and over again,” said Sheryl Rooth, Program and Volunteer Coordinator with Community and Family Services, in a statement Thursday. “Families went home with everything they needed to have a Merry Christmas and the smiles and blessings were abundant.”
“Londoners have really answered the call to help this Christmas season, with both toy and monetary donations. Without the community’s support we could not do what we do,” said Sally Ann representative Shannon Wise in a statement.
Compared to 2015 numbers, this year’s campaign saw 566 fewer food hampers distributed, with two more children receiving a bag of toys.
The Salvation Army will continue to help local families on a case by case basis right up until Christmas Eve, officials said.