Local family brings neighbours together to raise donations for food bank

A Strathmore family took it upon themselves to make Halloween about more than just decorations and costumes this year, opting to raise money and donations for the Wheatland County Food Bank.

Chelsea Sollows and her family turned their garage into a haunted maze for the occasion, inviting the community to drop in for a scare, and bring cash or non-perishable food donations.

“We had our monster maze that we hosted, and it was super successful. We were luck and privileged to have a lot of people come and join us,” she said. “We raised 390 pounds worth of food donations … (which equated to) $1,251.90 worth of food, and $127 in cash.”

Sollows added she and her family are relatively new faces in town, having only moved to Strathmore roughly six months ago, but have already come to love the local community.

After making their maze and deciding to not charge for entry, Sollows sent word out through social media to invite anyone interested to come out and support their project.

“We were not expecting to have such a large turnout or even to have that much food donated. It’s hard times for everybody right now, food is expensive, it is sometimes more of a luxury than anything,” she said. “For people to be coming and donating so much, it was quite amazing and we were actually overwhelmed.”

The idea to host a haunted maze followed a trip to Calgary to buy an animatronic Halloween decoration.

“We thought it was cool, (so) we went back and we bought another animatronic, and then we came home and we thought these are a significant investment; if we put them outside and it rains or snows, they have the possibility of getting wrecked,” she explained. “We thought, let’s put them in the garage, and then we thought, we don’t want to just put them in the garage and just stand there handing out candy, so we thought, let’s build a little maze.”

Construction of the maze inspired a return trip to stock up on more Halloween decorations, as well as inviting the neighbours over to test out and explore their creation.

The Sollows family already has plans to continue with their idea next year and to expand the event, getting their neighbours involved and joining in on the fun.

“Our neighbor right beside us has already graciously allowed us to steal their garage away. I was talking about doing a joint garage walkthrough,” she explained. “We would just see if we could raise even more funds and more donations to the food bank.”

Sollows wanted to recognize the Collins and Kelly families neighbouring her for helping to bring the project together this year.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times