Volunteer crews from North Saanich, Central Saanich and Sidney fire departments hauled in more than 44,000 pounds of food and $10,000 in cash donations for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank during their annual drive, Dec. 15. (Contributed/Brian Thomas)

Volunteer crews from North Saanich, Central Saanich and Sidney fire departments hauled in more than 44,000 pounds of food and $10,000 in cash donations for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank during their annual drive, Dec. 15. (Contributed/Brian Thomas)

Peninsula firefighters haul in 44,000 pounds of food, nearly $10,000 for food bank

Annual collection drive orchestrated by local fire departments ‘a fantastic success’ say organizers

If you heard holiday tunes and saw flashing lights atop fire trucks this past weekend it may have looked like another Christmas parade as firefighters from across the Peninsula collected donations for the annual food drive benefiting the local food bank.

And just like the actual Christmas parade, the food drive seems to have become an event people wait for, says Brian Thomas of the North Saanich Fire Department.

“It’s an incredible sight because people’s generosity overwhelms you sometimes,” says Thomas, who along with the Central Saanich and Sidney volunteer departments spent Saturday winding their way through neighbourhoods collecting donations, bringing Santa along with them.

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Thomas says the sheer size of donated items requires more trucks every year, sometimes unloading three or four times during the evening.

The weather held out perfectly, he says, estimating the haul was an increase of at least 10 per cent over last year, gathered by volunteer crews that included firefighters and their families.

“Here’s a bunch of people that donate their time for thousands of hours a year and then not only are they going to fire calls in the middle of the night but they give more of their time back to the community to help them out,” he says. “They don’t even give it a second thought.

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Bev Elder, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank estimates the drive brought in a total of $10,000 in cash donations and more than 44,000 pounds of food – a hefty increase from last year.

“Every place that the food went in the food bank was empty before,” she says. “There was 20 empty spots and it’s overflowing on the floor right now.”

It’s a good problem to have, however, she knows the bounty won’t last long.

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“It will probably only last us until March, and certain items we’ll run out of pretty much right away,” she says, pointing out the food bank will take donations up until Dec. 22, and is still in need of toiletries, juice, canned fruits and vegetables and rice.

Still, Elder and the team are grateful. “It’s amazing the dedication these guys and their families have. It’s pretty heartwarming to see all the time and effort, especially this time of year when everyone is so busy.”

kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca