Food bank rings up hope at Christmas

Salvation Army community ministries director David MacBain and his daughter Nicole Stensrude help make Christmas a little more special for those with kids in the Elve’s Workshop at the House of Hope. - Jennifer Smith/Morning Star
Salvation Army community ministries director David MacBain and his daughter Nicole Stensrude help make Christmas a little more special for those with kids in the Elve’s Workshop at the House of Hope.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

With food hampers piled four-feet tall, toys lining the walls of the elve’s workshop and some special gifts spread throughout the building, the local food bank literally became a House of Hope this week.

Tears of a new found joy, hope and dignity were spread as Christmas was made a little merrier for  those who may have otherwise gone without.

In just two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, Vernon’s Salvation Army Food Bank handed out approximately 811 food hampers, just in time for the holidays.

“Hope and dignity is what we’re looking to provide,” said community ministries director David MacBain, while organizing volunteers, which includes his mom, in laws, daughter and every family member he could recruit to lend a hand.

MacBain’s 24-year-old daughter, Nicole Stensrude, has been helping out in some form since she was just a little girl – whether it was ringing kettle bells around town or filling in as an elf in the workshop.

“Every year there’s always something that brings a tear to your eyes,” said Stensrude, of some of the heart-wrenching stories she hears.

But thanks to the community’s strong spirit of giving, the season is made a little brighter for those struggling to afford even the basic necessities such as food.

For those with children, there is also an opportunity to serve up something extra special.

Thanks to the KISS FM Santa Toy Club, a separate room at the House of Hope is transformed into an elve’s workshop, with toys for all ages (from babies to 12-year-olds). It includes a giant apple crate, overflowing with stuffed animals from the Vernon Vipers annual Teddy bear toss.

Such gifts will make an estimated 300 children smile this Christmas morning, knowing that Santa didn’t forget about them.

“It can be a tough thing for parents,” said Stensrude, as those on a tight budget often can’t afford to fill stockings or put something under the tree. “It’s always a struggle to meet the needs for those kids.”

Local teenagers haven’t been forgotten either.

Teens Count Too sets up a table with clothing and gift bags inside the House of Hope during the two hamper days to ensure Christmas also comes for the older kids.

The SUN FM supported charity raised more than $21,000 this year, which means none of the approximately 500 teens helped each year at Christmas will be left out.

Then there are other special additions like Rancho Vignola.

The Armstrong dried fruit, nut and chocolate company provides an extra special treat to food bank clients.

“They have given us thousands of dollars worth of products every year,” said MacBain. “It’s a real treat to have that quality of food here.”

This year Christmas was even made a little more special thanks to Rona for donating 40 Christmas trees for clients at the food bank.

Yet all of these tangible donations would never make it into the hands of those who need it if it weren’t for the donations of time.

Whether it’s ringing a kettle or helping to organize the hustle and bustle on hamper day or those who even offer to taxi clients and their hampers back home, the volunteers and staff make it all happen.

“The mood is festive and we are very appreciative of the many volunteers who have come to help, and of course the countless individuals, businesses, clubs and groups who have given to make it all possible,” said MacBain.

The Vernon Salvation Army Food Bank assists 1,100 people a year and all food drives and donations, including those at Christmas (such as the Realtors’ Food Drive), help fill the need year-round.

“We are blessed to help so many at this special time of year and we have received many thanks from those receiving that help,” said MacBain. “We pass that thank you on to all who have helped us.”

From a coin in the kettle (the kettle campaign has raised $90,000 of its $125,000 goal) or a can of food on the shelf, you can help by donating at or at one of the kettles ringing for their last day today.




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