Five local charities are once again receiving a much-needed boost in funding this fall from a local pumpkin farmer who understands the importance of community.
For well over a decade, Bob Webber, owner of Bailey Creek Farms, has given 10 per cent of the sales to Matthews House Hospice, Our Town and Good Shepherd Food Bank, My Sister’s Place, and the Krasman Centre.
He said it’s his way of giving back to the community who supports him each year by coming to the farm, picking a pumpkin and enjoying his annual art installations, which are brought to life by Cookstown wood carver Scott Rowe.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” noted Webber. “I’m part of the community, I was born here and it comes back many times because people will support somebody that supports the community."
Alliston’s Good Shepherd Food Bank Vice President David Bradbury said his organization is extremely grateful to Webber, as there are less opportunities for fundraising because of COVID-19.
“Guys like Bob are just amazing, what he's doing, helping so many different organizations – it's real community spirit,” said Bradbury. "I just love to see that."
“If we had 100 Bobs in this community, we'd be better than we are,” he added.
Mary-Lou Osborne of Our Town Food Bank said they’re in a similar boat and are relieved to receive Webber’s cash donation.
“This is coming at a very important time,” she noted. "It helps to sustain us when donations are low, they're generally low in the summer, so it helps sustain us into the Thanksgiving season.”
“We did miss the big Easter Drive, which is usually huge for us because all the schools collect, local firefighters, all these different people do these big wonderful drives and we get so much food,” Osbourne added.
In-person fundraisers have been a bust, but a local family has helped to raise $7,000 for Our Town Food Bank through making and selling Blue Birdhouses.
Osbourne said it’s great to have someone like Webber in the community, helping out their organization each year.
"We are so grateful, he is just the best neighbour, always thinking of others and his generosity is really amazing,” she said.
Andrea Roylance of Matthews House Hospice said Webber’s donation helps offset their fundraising efforts, as 72 per cent of the organization’s budget isn’t funded by the government.
"The donations help us deliver our wonderful programs and services like mental health counselling, peer support, grief and bereavement, hospice at home and wellness,” she explained.
These programs and the hospice itself touch 3,500 people annually.
With COVID-19, it’s been an interesting year for fundraising, but Brenda Pufek, Community Engagement Coordinator at Matthews House, said creativity is the key.
“We found new and exciting ways to fundraise and everyone's just been so on board, it's been fantastic,” she said.
My Sister’s Place, who also receives some cash from Webber, provides a safe haven to women and their children enduring domestic violence or abuse.
Its Executive Director, Deborah Herrington, said because the organization is partially funded by the government, it needs to raise 15 per cent or roughly $150,000 to $200,000 annually.
“Every year this is a fantastic donation, it goes to our offsetting revenue for operation of the shelter,” she noted.
“It’s hugely impactful and it's ongoing, it's been many years that the family has donated to My Sister's Place and we're very, very thankful for that."
It’s been a difficult fundraising year with the pandemic in place, said Herrington concurred.
"We're struggling with that, absolutely. A lot of our fundraisers are generated through public awareness and being on site at events, such as the Potato Festival, the Carrot Festival, Beeton Fall Fair, all of those events,” she explained.
"This year we don't have any of those, so we're seeing the impacts already but we'll see probably at our year end, hugely, what the impact really has been,” Herrington continued.
"We're still working through trying to find different ways to bring awareness to the community and say, 'Hey, we're still here, our services are still fully being used and the impact has been large.'"
Meanwhile, the Krasman Centre, a peer support drop-in facility for people struggling with mental health, addictions and homelessness in Alliston, has also received a financial boost from Webber’s annual donation.
Operations Manager Julie Shand said the donation helps her organization purchase toiletries, food and other basic needs for their clients ahead of the holidays.
Shand first met Webber around a decade ago and said she was blown away by his generosity when he initially visited the centre to offer a portion of his sales as a donation.
“I think I cried the first time he came in; it was just such a lovely thing and it's a community thing,” she said.
“He’s also brought in some zucchinis, which is really nice to be able to hand out to families.”
Monica Poirier, Outreach Worker for the Krasman Centre, said Webber is all about community.
“The fact that he's a local man, he grew up here and he always, always contributes to the community,” she said.
“He’s about connecting with human beings and he's not this big, huge conglomerate, he's just a person, a wonderful person.”
Sam Odrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times