Christmas is fast disappearing into the rear view mirror as we set our faces towards 2017 and the remaining months of winter before our next opportunity to celebrate a holiday. There’s often an emotional droop in January and February, and that is most especially true of the growing number of people in our community who face the future in fear and want. The Christmas season brings new supplies of food, funds, clothing and cheer to the food banks and thrift stores upon which so many depend. The sad fact is that more and more people are looking to these sources for daily needs and organisations trying to meet those needs are finding it harder to do so.
One of those organisations is the Knights of Columbus, who operate out of Holy Cross parish in Kemptville. Christmas in our Community has also been a big part of the work done by the KoC, who have a program in place open to all residents, regardless of class or creed, who request Christmas Hampers and gifts for children. The Knights provide thousands of dollars to purchase food needed to fill these hampers.
This year 113 requests came in to the Knights, 49 of them involved 115 children, and this does not include special needs kids. They are “adopted out” to local businesses and individuals, who volunteer to take care of a family over Christmas. Again, this year, many of these called in to the Knights and offered to take care of a special needs family. Canadian Tire, Staff from Rona, O’Farrell Financial, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Service Ontario, TD , Hulse Playfair & McGarry and so many more call and sign on year after year. OPSU provided $200.
The KoC are part of the North Grenville Community Service Council [NGCSC], which for over forty years, has been part of this community, helping families in crisis. NGCSC consists of members from each service group in North Grenville Kemptville: the Lions, Kinsmen, Legion 212, Knights of Columbus and Kemptville Rotary Club. Each group assigns a member to sit on the board where the Executive Director presents request that have been sent to the groups. These are evaluated, and the board then decides if they can provide help.
Each year the Knights request help to oversee the gift side of the Hampers and the NGCSC Director speaks to each person requesting help. 2016 team leader Monique Larabie, working with Adonica Brown, teens Bella Brown and Ceiledh Brown, as well as Judy Littau, Mary Ellen, and Sugold, spent over 140 hours making sure every child was given what the parish member chose for them on the angel tree. But not all are picked, as many apply late in the campaign. The group spent many hours making lists of items that had not been picked up. They went shopping, with volunteers Bella and Ceiledh providing input into the things a teen would like or wear. They worked for over 30 hours, packing and shopping.
NGCSC members do what they can to help the Knights of Columbus, who want every family to have the best holiday possible. Each year referrals are sent in to the Executive Director by health care workers, teachers, doctors, neighbours and groups. Special needs have issues in the home, perhaps a parent or child is ill, or requires special care. According to NGCSC Executive Director, Claire Larabie: “We make sure each request is matched with a member of our community who is on our list. They are given generic details, such as Cancer, CF, etc. A child or teen with mobility issues has no use for a skate board. They may like to draw, or play games, or to read. A child with autism or Downs Syndrome needs that special gift, so we match these to families or businesses who have signed on”.
Many others help in other ways, by providing shortfall items for the Hampers. Kemptville Animal Hospital held a trim nail campaign again this year, in exchange for food donations and cash. $168 and 900 lbs of food was collected. CIBC collected food items and they held dress- down Fridays for the NGCSC. All the food and funds will be given to the Knights of Columbus. Claire speaks on behalf of all the NGSCS members: “I send a big thank you to every member who came out that Sunday in freezing rain and snow. It did not stop the Knights of Columbus from delivering their Christmas Hampers. I also thank those who sent thank you cards, telling us how happy we made the children”.
This kind of care and generosity is needed as much in the new year as it was at Christmas. It is a sad fact of life today that the need for food, proper clothing, toys, and whatever is so often taken for granted by others, are more and more being supplied by service agencies like the Knights fo Columbus. As hydro rates rise, added taxes reduce our disposable incomes, and the price of food continues to increase, we need to stand with these volunteers and support one another as much as we can, to ensure that even these basic needs are met.