by Owen Munro, Abbotsford News
Christmas fundraising campaigns are in full swing across Abbotsford, but the number of people using the services is going up, putting an extra burden on organizations that are already lagging behind previous years.
For the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau (which serves as the food bank for the rest of the year) and Cyrus Centre – two of the major agencies that help assist residents during the holidays – donations are still coming in to support the increasing amount of people using the services offered.
The Christmas Bureau’s goal of reaching $1 million in donations is a little more than halfway there, with the organization having raised $537,000 so far.
The money raised provides funding for programs and services for the next 12 months. They also collect donations from various school food drives and the Fraser Valley Auto Mall food drive that takes place this Saturday.
This year, food bank manager Dave Murray said that almost 150 seniors have come in looking for help, a number he only expects to rise in future years.
“I think it’s a trend we’re going to see more and more,” he said. “It’s going up every year and the fact of the matter is when seniors come in, they’re usually pretty desperate. It takes a lot to do that.”
However, it’s not just seniors who risk going hungry or homeless; the Cyrus Centre on Ware Street is seeing an unprecedented number of at-risk youth coming to the centre’s food bank and emergency shelter.
Executive director Les Talvio said the centre has increased its fundraising goal to $110,000 because World Vision pulled out of a $60,000 partnership with the non-profit in order to focus on work overseas. He doesn’t have an exact estimate on what has been raised so far, but said it’s around 40 per cent of their goal.
The uptick in youth looking for food or a place to sleep has been a concern for Talvio.
“We’re seeing about 20 kids a day,” Talvio said. “However, our shelter has been busier where we’re seeing about a 20 per cent increase.”
An update from the Salvation Army – which supports single people and couples without children – was not available by press deadline.