When residents see lights flashing on the evenings of Nov. 3 and 4 they don’t need to worry that anyone’s life is in danger, but the fire trucks’ trip down every street in Black Diamond, Longview and Turner Valley is in response to an emergent need in their communities.
The men and women in uniform are collecting non-perishable food items for the Oilfields Food Bank’s Christmas hamper program.
For Black Diamond firefighter Jamie Kline, the annual tradition is an opportunity to connect with the community while helping those in need.
“It’s definitely fun having kids coming to the door and asking questions and coming to the trucks and checking them out,” she said. “It’s a nice community feel.”
Kline said children often wait with their faces pressed against the window for the fire trucks to arrive at their homes.
The trucks head down every street in Black Diamond and Longview on Nov. 3 and Turner Valley on Nov. 4 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Kline expects the donations will be abundant again this year.
Of the occupied homes the firefighters visit, more than 80 per cent donate something to the hamper program, said Kline.
“If somebody is there and opens the door to us they will generally donate something,” she said. “We collected so much food last year that they ran out of room for it.
“The fact that we’ve been consistently doing it every year for so long it’s helping for sure.”
Kline knows first-hand the importance of food banks after her own family made use of one when she was a child.
“I grew up pretty poor so as a child we had to use the food bank a time or two so I know how important it is at Christmas,” she said. “Everyone’s budget gets stressed after back to school and before Christmas. There is a definite need in the community and as a child I definitely benefitted from that service agency.”
Ida Wegelin, the food bank’s board chairperson, hears stories like Kline’s several times a year and understands how tough times can be for people.
“Some of them are working, but the paycheque just doesn’t cover everything,” she said. “Emergencies come up and children need shoes and the dollar just doesn’t stretch.”
Wegelin said a young mother of two who recently moved to Turner Valley needed the food bank’s help after the house’s hot water heater broke down.
“Moving is expensive at the best of times and when things like that go those are emergencies,” she said.
The Oilfields Food Bank prepared about 100 Christmas hampers annually in recent years and Wegelin expects a similar need this year.
She said the hampers provide all the food needed for a Christmas dinner, with a few extras this year.
“We are overstocked on a few things,” she said. “We thought we will put a little bit extra into the hampers this year to clear some of that out and make way for the firemen’s pickup.”
Wegelin said the food drive typically fills the shelves into the next year due to the generosity of residents, and is requesting more cash and cheque donations this year as their shelves are already quite full.
“Having money allows us to get what we need and right now storage space is as bit limited,” she said. “Our buyer can just go to the store and get what is needed – fresh fruit and vegetables and meat and dairy products.”
Toys are also needed to accompany the food hampers for families with children, said Wegelin.
To register for a Christmas hamper or to adopt a family go to the Lewis Memorial United Church on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. or contact Wendy at 403-861-1847. Cheques can be brought to the United Church or mailed to the Oilfields Food Bank at Box 1318 in Turner Valley.
Food items can be dropped off at the food bank, local fire halls and various businesses in the three communities. Items in need include canned fruit and vegetables, stuffing, hot chocolate, tea, cake mix and icing and peanut butter, while items like soup and pastas are not needed.
The Christmas hampers will be available for those who register on Dec. 17.