December 11, 2013

Community Services has expansion plans

As published in The Erin Advocate

East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) is hoping to expand its help for people in need next year, including an educational program on ways to eat better on a tight budget.
The agency launched its annual Christmas appeal on December 4 – the Give a Gift of Community Support campaign – at Erin United Church, with the goal of raising $25,000. This would support not only the Food Bank, but the wide range of services now in place for seniors and children.
Helping with the EWCS ribbon cutting are (left to right) Manager of Community and Volunteer Services Erika Westcott, Executive Director Kari Simpson, Erin Mayor Lou Maieron, EWCS President Allan Alls, Erin Radio host Erin Montgomery, Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White, Erin Councillor Josie Wintersinger and Guelph-Eramosa Councillor John Scott.

Some services get partial government funding, but fundraising gives EWCS the flexibility to allocate money to respond to community needs, said Erika Westcott, Manager of Community and Volunteer Services.
The campaign was launched at the Evening of Dickens event organized by Transition Erin, with Erin Mayor Lou Maieron and Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White, who is also the County Warden, on hand to show their support.
The evening started with a soup and bread supper prepared by local chefs, carried on with the reading of A Christmas Carol by Town Crier Andrew Welch and wrapped up with the singing of Christmas carols.
Transition Erin is a natural supporter of EWCS, since its members are focused on wise use of resources and community-based initiatives.
“We are committed to enhancing the quality of life for the people of Erin,” said Welch.
Cathy Hansen of Transition Erin, an organic farmer and chef, is one of the people helping EWCS explore the idea of a Community Kitchen program.
It would be an educational effort provided at low cost, for anyone wanting to learn about efficient methods of preparing locally-grown food in larger batches, and preserving it. This could engage some seniors who are able to share their traditional skills.
“It would help people be more self-sufficient and independent, and build up confidence and self-esteem,” said Westcott.
EWCS is also hoping to expand its programs for active seniors (55+), with a plan to hold community meetings to see what activities are in demand.
“We want to be responding with things that are needed,” she said.
Food bank use continues to hover at record levels according to HungerCount 2013, a national study released in November by Food Banks Canada. In a typical month, they now provide food to 833,000 individuals, 40% of them children.
“Far too many people are looking into an empty fridge and wondering how they're going to feed themselves and their kids,” said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director of Food Banks Canada, which coordinated the national study involving more than 4,000 food programs.
HungerCount 2013 found that each month, 80,000 Canadians are forced to ask for help from a food bank for the first time. Nearly 40,000 of those helped each month are low-income seniors. One in six households assisted by food banks has employment income, yet still can’t make ends meet.
“While we live in a prosperous community, there is still a shockingly high number of people that are turning to the food bank to ease the burden of having to choose food over another basic necessity,” said Westcott. “These statistics are such a sad reality, considering the prosperity of Canada as a nation.”
EWCS has seen a 13% increase in need for the food bank program, with many being seniors with a fixed income that is not enough to cover their expenses or young families who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. 
“With so many needing this program, it makes it a challenge to make sure we have enough food on our shelves to help provide the support they need, along with supporting them through the Christmas season, so that they are not excluded from celebrating the holiday because of their circumstance,” said Westcott.
“We are so thankful to our community for the many food drive and fundraising events to help us continue to provide the food support to those who need it the most.”
The HungerCount 2013 report recommends increased access to affordable housing, so that Canadians are not forced to choose between paying rent or buying food, and increased investment in education and training for those at risk of failing in the job market.
They also advocate reform of social assistance programs, to help people build self-sufficiency instead of being trapped in poverty.
For more information on the EWCS food bank program or the Adopt-A-Family Christmas Hamper program and how you can get involved, contact EWCS at 519-833-9696 in Erin or 519-856-2113 in Rockwood, or go to For Transition Erin, go to