Rising housing and food costs are among the factors that have put higher demands on the three main agencies in Abbotsford that support those in need during the holiday season and throughout the year.
The Abbotsford Christmas Bureau (which serves as the food bank for the rest of the year), the Salvation Army, and Cyrus Centre for at-risk youth are well into their Christmas fundraising campaigns and hope to reach their goals to meet that demand.
The money they raise during the holidays helps the non-profits provide their programs and services throughout the year.
Food bank manager Dave Murray said the organization, as of Wednesday afternoon, has raised about $715,000 toward its $1.2 million goal – at around the same point the agency was at last year at this time.
However, the amount of food donations has dropped. Murray said he has had to purchase more food than ever to get through the holiday season.
He said, in past years, the agency had enough food donations to carry it through the fall, but this year he had to buy items starting in the summer to meet the needs of the approximately 3,500 people the food bank serves each month.
Around 40 per cent of those are kids, Murray said.
But with the Fraser Valley Auto Mall Food Drive tomorrow, and school food drives coming to a close next week, those donations are expected to rise considerably.
Another area where the food bank has noticed a greater need is with seniors, who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet on their fixed incomes, as food and housing costs continue to rise.
“I think the seniors’ need will continue to add to our numbers,” Murray said.
He said the Christmas Bureau expects to help more than 1,200 families through the holiday season.
Families receive food hampers, including a full Christmas breakfast and dinner, which are distributed at the food bank on Essendene Avenue, as well as toys/gifts, which are provided at the former Sears store in Sevenoaks Shopping Centre.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army hopes to raise $130,000 through its red kettle campaign during the holiday season, en route to its overall goal of $630,000 for the year ending March 31, 2019.
Fundraising co-ordinator Kim Hissink said the agency is currently on track to reach its holiday goal.
There are currently 16 red kettles in place throughout Abbotsford and five in Mission.
She said the Salvation Army is facing more demand for its services, including an increase for assistance through the Family Services program, which provides things such as food, clothing and a medical clinic for those in need.
Hissink said another challenge has been finding housing for clients in a tight rental market.
The Sally Ann provides food hampers and gifts over the holidays, including through its Angel Tree program running until Dec. 24 at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre. The goal is to provide gifts and food boxes for 100 families.
Hissink said the organization provides upwards of 300 meals per day at the Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue and 165 meals per month to a church in Mission that looks after vulnerable people in the community.
The Salvation Army is also holding a community Christmas lunch on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at noon at Gateway Church, 2883 Gladys Ave. A Christmas candlelight luncheon takes place on Dec. 24 at noon at the Centre of Hope, 34081 Gladys Ave.
Also hoping to meets its fundraising goal this season is Cyrus Centre, which provides vulnerable youth with services such as emergency shelter, meals and clothing.
Executive director Les Talvio said the centre, located on Ware Street, hopes to raise another $60,000 this month towards its $500,000 goal for the year.
He said the centre has had some increased costs this year, with two more beds – there are now six – added to its permanent shelter, as well as 10 beds in its temporary shelter that is open each night from Nov. 1 to March 31.
The centre has also extended the age limit – now 24 years old – for accessing its “warming centre” daily from noon to 8 p.m. for meals, laundry, clothing and other services.
Another addition is the Breakfast Club program for those ages 18 to 24 who have aged out of adolescent supports and programs. The club runs three days a week and offers life skills, referrals to other agencies, support in obtaining housing, and more.
Talvio said the fastest growing demographic for homelessness is those from the ages of 19 to 24.
“It’s just gotten out of control,” he said.
Talvio said Cyrus Centre in Abbotsford averages approximately 11,000 visits a year.
w For more information about the Christmas Bureau and its needs, visit abbotsfordfoodbank.com or call 604-859-5749.
w For the Salvation Army, visit centreofhope.net or call 604-852-9305.
w For Cyrus Centre, visit cyruscentre.com or call 604-859-5773.