November 19, 2014

Local focus will help build up community

As published in The Erin Advocate

There was a lot of talk during the election campaign about kicking some fresh energy into the Erin economy. With Christmas approaching, there are opportunities to take action that will strengthen the community.

One aspect is local shopping. You can only have a quaint shopping district if there is a critical mass of activity and the stores have enough revenue to survive. It is not a matter of charity, but of giving them the chance to compete.

So I urge people to walk around, talk to business owners, check out what’s available, go out for dinner, and try to do at least $50 worth of Christmas shopping within Erin. It’s all well and good to bring in new business investment, but the top priority has to be preserving and expanding what we have.

Another aspect may be called charity, but that too is really a local investment. By helping people through hard times, we improve everyone’s quality of life, build community awareness and cycle money through the local economy. And when our economy gets stronger, there will be less need for services like food banks.

There are lots of ways to volunteer and make donations, many of them organized by East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) and the various clubs and churches that contribute to its programs.

Despite living in a wealthy nation, some 842,000 Canadians got help from a food bank in March this year. That’s up only 1% since last year, but up 25% since 2008. Click here to access HungerCount 2014.

Demand continues to increase at the local Food Bank. They have helped 1,088 people (including family members) so far this year, distributing 39,596 pounds of food – the equivalent of $99,000 at the grocery store – and the year is far from over.

Station 10 Firefighters are holding their 10th Annual Food Drive and Barbecue on November 22 and 23, 10 am to 2 pm at Marc’s Valu-mart.

The Brighten Up Toy and Game Shop at 67 Main Street is holding its 3rd Annual Toy Drive on November 22, 11 am to 3 pm, supporting EWCS efforts to provide Christmas cheer to local families, seniors and single people in need.

“Times are definitely tough at Christmas for many of our client families who are already struggling with a limited budget,” said Erika Westcott, EWCS Manager of Marketing and Fund Development.

EWCS will launch its annual Christmas appeal on December 2. Last year they surpassed their target of $25,000, and will be shooting for the same amount this year. They’ll also be promoting their new, more accessible website.

The agency had been investigating the idea of a community kitchen, but it was an expensive project that really wasn’t wanted by clients. They have been able to follow through with some workshops on how to make nutritious meals at low cost.

The Adopt-A-Family Christmas program provides donors with several ways to help. Anonymous sponsorship of families with children 16 and under is coordinated by The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington. Clients provide a wish list and donors are asked to provide some gifts (including something small for the parents) and a $25 grocery gift card for each family member.

The EWCS office coordinates sponsorship of seniors, adults of youths over 16. Donors can team up with friends or fellow members of various groups to co-sponsor a family. People can also contribute to food hampers that ensure clients get a Christmas dinner and Christmas morning breakfast. And of course, donations of food or any amount of money are appreciated at any time of the year.

“Everything that comes in is used – the focus is on the clients,” said Westcott. There’s more information at, or call 519-833-9696.