FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – While many people might be starting to think about Christmas now that Halloween is over, there might also be a lot of people this year thinking about what they are going to do on Christmas because they can’t afford much with the economic downturn.
That is where the Big Brothers, Big Sisters comes in.
Danielle Armstrong with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Fort St. John says they take referrals for the “Adopt a Family – Holiday Hamper” program from mainly professionals.
“The majority of families are referred to us by schools or other professional organizations, Social Workers, Counsellors. Some do self-apply and then we do an intake or vetting process for that.”
While the intake process occurs, they then have sponsors who come and sponsor in different ways. According to Armstrong, the most popular way is sponsoring a family as a whole.
“The most popular way is that a sponsor comes on and adopts a family in entirety.”
She also points to the fact that this year will be unique.
“Obviously, this year is very unique with the downturn in the economy. Several more families then typical are struggling.
I think through the spring and summer this year, things have really started to bottom out for a lot of people in our community. These are people who, some are dual income households where both parents were laid off. These are people who have maintained steady jobs for years and years and just because of the downturn, are finding themselves in a really tough spot.
I hope that there are families that aren’t discouraged from asking for help this year because there is a sense of pride associated with having to ask for the help and I know there is going to be a lot of people who are going to be in need for the first time in a long time.”
Big Brothers, Sisters address household needs, along with food and clothing and bedding. They also attach a wish list for a family.
“The list is meant to be very comprehensive so the family and the sponsor, though they may never meet, the sponsor feels that they have a understanding of the family and a connection to them. That is why our lists are designed with so much information.”
Armstrong notes some sponsors go out and get a few things on the list, while others will go out and get the whole list for a family. They don’t have a set amount of what has to be donated. She says last year was a year where more hampers were needed.
“The need has grown. Last year we supported over 180 individuals through our hamper program. Last year was 3 times the size of any other hamper year for us. We anticipate a lot of need this year.”
She says this year they had phone calls already coming in October to refer a family. They had to tell people to wait until November 1st.
“This is the first year ever in the history of our hamper program that we have been receiving calls in October for hampers. People are already wanting to make sure they don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply and get their name on the list. We were putting everyone off until this week saying that we would start the intake on November 1st. So we already have a list of people who have contacted us.”
Luckily, they have had sponsors already stepping up to sponsor families. Armstrong notes that they are mostly returning sponsors, something that surprised them.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters hopes that they can deliver some holiday spirit to those who are truly in need this coming holiday season.