Grimsby's GBF Community Services knows the community will show up for Christmas hamper program

Even as the cost-of-living crisis slows down donations to food banks, GBF Community Services in Grimsby knows it can count on the community when it matters.

On Nov. 9, members of the Grimsby Lions Club and volunteers put together 250 hygiene kits for GBF’s annual Christmas hamper program, and donated a cheque to the food bank of $1,500.

And, as an additional challenge, the club decided to race against the clock to pack the kits, filling the boxes in 25 minutes, beating last year’s time of 45 minutes.

GBF is currently preparing for its annual Christmas hamper program, which are expected to be distributed starting on Dec. 10.

Each registered household will receive one of 250 hampers, which include turkey, cranberries, clementines and a gift card to a grocery store.

The gift card is a welcome addition, said Ala Benish, food program manager at GBF, because it means families are free to spend it as they wish, on the things they usually get at Christmas.

“Clients like it because they can decide what to buy,” she said. “It helps them experience their own traditions.”

That’s especially helpful as Benish explained that they have had refugees from Ukraine and Middle Eastern countries sign up recently.

GBF is calling on the community to donate to the program, either with monetary donations or Christmas presents.

Donations of food and money have been down at many food banks, including GBF, but Benish said she knows that she can rely on the community in times of need.

“We know that when we ask the community for support, they’ll show up,” she said.

And the Grimsby Lions Club did show up, donating $1,500 to the food bank and packing the hygiene kits, which include body wash, two-in-one shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and hand soap.

“We just want to give back to the community,” said Bob Franks, volunteer with the Lions.

Benish praised the contribution of the Lions.

“They always exceed our expectations,” she said.

“That’s the spirit of Grimsby. Grimsby is very giving … we’re never let down.”

Anyone who wishes to donate a gift to the program should bring it to the food bank by Dec. 2, to allow time for sorting. Donors are encouraged not to wrap the gifts in advance to aid the sorting, but gift wrap donations are appreciated.

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News