It's been close to 20 years since the start of the October 31st Food Drive on the streets of Killarney - this to support Killarney's local food bank.
The Killarney Mennonite Church on Bay Avenue, and the Lakeview Community Church at the corner of Lakeview Avenue and Hamilton Street, partner together to undertake what seems like a huge task, but in actuality when the 35-40 volunteers come together, it takes only a few hours from start to finish.
Event coordinator, Pastor Danny Groening, says the idea of a Halloween Food Drive stemmed from wanting to engage their youth group in building their community through volunteerism and giving of themselves, rather than taking for themselves as is the practice of 'trick or treat'.
"Rather than trick or treating and getting something for ourselves, like getting candy and 'treats', we were wanting to help others through collecting donations for the food bank," he shares. "That was the thought behind it, and it became a tradition in a sense, and so we do it every year."
After close to 20 years their youth leaders and young people, and adult volunteers all know what to do on the evening of Halloween, from pick up to drop off, from sorting to transporting, to filling the shelves at the food bank.
"Home base is the Lakeview Community Church gymnasium, and so that's our rally point," explains Pastor Danny. "We start the event off there, so volunteers arrive at 5:30 at the gym. I pre-make all the routes for the volunteer groups and we divide the town up into different bites so each group takes a couple of streets."
From the rally point, the teams go out and make the rounds collecting the non-perishables on their assigned routes and return to the gymnasium.
"And there is another group of volunteers who begin to sort the items into categories," he says, "and from there once that's all done, we load them up onto a trailer and weigh them on the Shur-Gro's weigh scale, and then from there it goes to the foodbank that night."
The volunteers unload the trailer one last time at the food bank where another team receives and sorts and fills their shelves.
During Covid the food drive continued but the logistics changed as participants were encouraged to simply leave their bags or boxes of non-perishables out by their front doors, or in an area that is easy to see by the volunteers as they're driving past. For apartment-like buildings with a shared lobby, donations are left in the lobby for pickup. This strategy of collection has worked so well that now residents prepare well in advance and leave their donations just outside their front door or step.
"It's a one-night operation," adds Pastor Danny. "I think last year, from 5:30 to just before 8:00 we were entirely wrapped up! It was incredible how fast we canvassed the whole town and got everything into the foodbank! So, we've got it down to a well-oiled machine!"
With the church youth group being involved in every aspect of the food drive, Pastor Danny says this is a very practical way for these young people to be involved in their community, of giving back. And they're having fun in the process, he says.
"Seeing that 'doing charity' is actually fun and is rewarding," he shares. "You do it with other people. You do it with your friends and you have a great time, and it's actually one of our fun events that we do with the youth every year. And there is a great life-lesson on doing practical acts of kindness to do good, to feed the hungry."
"This is the message behind it, and I hope the youth not only participate in it for a year or two but embrace and internalize it as a way of living life," he adds.
To the donors, Pastor Danny encourages folks to donate whatever is on their hearts to give.
"We live in a wonderfully generous community, and I know the need in our world and in our community is growing," he says. "Our food bank is being taxed more than they ever have in the current economy and a lot of people are genuinely struggling, and so if you are in a position where you have been blessed with an abundance, please pass some of that along. It's going to make an impact."
Please listen to more with Pastor Danny Groening below!
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