Saanich Peninsula comes through for food bank

Firefighters collect hundreds of pounds of food; thousands of dollars

With a little help from pilot Ben Whyte

In what has been described as a “down year” for food and cash donations for food banks in B.C., residents of the Saanich Peninsula came through in a big way for the Sidney Lions Food Bank on Saturday.

Peninsula volunteer fire departments held their annual food drive on Dec. 17, visiting neighbourhoods in Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney. And while there’s a friendly competition between the departments, they all agree the effort is about helping the community.

To that end, donors in Sidney came up with $7,160 in cash for the local fire hall. Lt. Rick Togood says that’s a 34 per cent increase over what was collected last year.

“It’s been another great year,” he said, noting the department also collected 234 boxes of food.

Food donations, Togood noted, are a little down over last year — but that was more than made up for in cash donations. He said the food bank can use the money, making it go further to help families in need.

Bev Elder, executive director of the Sidney Lions Food Bank said with their connections with grocery suppliers, they can get what they need for their 400-plus Christmas food hampers — and make the money go the extra mile.

She added that even in Sidney, donations have been down this month. However, Elder noted the food bank gets a lot of support year-’round to help keep the shelves filled.

In North Saanich, firefighter Brian Thomas said they collected around $3,000 in cash — and they almost doubled the amount of food they collected last year. Their food drive event saw Santa Claus arrive by helicopter at the Wain Road fire hall, thanks to support from Port Sidney Marina and Mill Bay Marine Group.

Rob Syverson of the Central Saanich Fire Department said their members and their families collected $460 and are on par with the food donations, compared with last year. Central Saanich residents donated enough food to fill two trailers.

“It’s all about trying to help the community,” Syverson said. “It’s why we signed up for this job in the first place.”

Togood said the firefighters’ food drives include their families and have become an annual tradition. He said it’s always good to see families encourage their children to be a part of the giving.

“It gives you hope that there’s another generation out there that values giving back to the community,” he said.