In tough times, the generosity of Calgarians is noticed by non-profits

The lineup snaked its way through vendors and out the doors. Children waited impatiently while parents cast apologetic glances towards others in the queue as a record-breaking number of people turned out to taste something warm and delicious on a recent morning at the Calgary Farmer’s Market.

Calgary Meals on Wheels began its annual Hot Chocolate Festival six years ago as a creative way to earn donations it uses to provide support for Calgarians, like Arnold Knopp and Muriel and Earl Pierson, who are no longer able to make meals for themselves.

“Our kids convinced us,” Pierson said of the need to use Meals on Wheels services. Pierson has been battling health complications that affect his diet and he is grateful for the aid Meals on Wheels is providing.

“The service isn’t too bad,” Knopp chuckled with the volunteers who delivered the meal. “Sometimes it’s better than the meals.”

For the many people who rely on the services of non-profit organizations like Meals on Wheels and Inn from the Cold, this year is seeing some challenges as the recession continues to affect individuals and corporations who provide funds for these organizations.

Some non-profits, like Calgary Meals on Wheels, rely less on corporate finances and more on donations from individuals and the volunteer work of Calgarians. Inn from the Cold relies upon corporate funds as well as individual donations to help with the day-to-day costs associated with providing shelter, clothing and nourishment.

This year, both are feeling the pinch of the fallen dollar, lost jobs, low oil prices and the higher costs of produce imported from outside Canada and both are hoping for further funds from the government.

In addition to the funds from the government, Calgary Meals on Wheels hoped to raise at least $5,000 from its YYC Hot Chocolate Festival to help subsidize clients’ meals. Last year Calgary Meals on Wheels was able to meet the budgeted goal. This year, Janice Curtis, the executive director of Calgary Meals on Wheels, said the organization is trying to be a bit more creative in order to meet the budgeted goals for 2016.

Christine Conley, community outreach coordinator for Calgary meals on Wheels, raises glasses with participants and organizers of YYC Hot Chocolate fest at the kickoff event on January 30.
Photo by Stefan Strangman

“So we have our fingers crossed for 2016,” said Curtis. “But I think it’s going to be a little bit tighter this year.”

Curtis’ thoughts are not unfamiliar for other programs and organizations that strive to help Calgarians with needs that have become difficult to meet on their own. Inn from the Cold’s communications manager Lynn Cox expressed a similar concern about budgets tightening in the current economic state of Alberta.

“To date we actually haven’t seen a decrease in funds coming in. However, we are projecting for this year, a 20 per cent decrease in donations,” Cox said. “It’s our hope that we won’t be raising 20 per cent less but we do have to take into account the climate that we’re in and expect that could happen.”

Last year was the highest need year for Inn from the Cold, Cox said. “This year,” she said, “the numbers are on par with the previous year.” But compared with the previous year, Inn from the Cold received everything they needed to keep providing for others.

Despite the decline of companies investing in non-profit organizations, Calgary Meals on Wheels and Inn from the Cold are noticing more personal donations of clothing and time. It appears, they say, people are aware of the issue – as everyone is being affected by this recession – and this is positively affecting their organizations.

“We have a waiting list,” Curtis said. “We have never had a waiting list for volunteers before.”

Additionally, the goal of $5,000 was exceeded by Calgary Meals on Wheels’ Hot Chocolate Festival which raised over $16,000 from 33 vendors and 37 different beverages across Calgary during the month of February.

According to a 2015 study by Statistics Canada, the average proportion of Canadians who volunteer has consistently remained around 44 per cent for the last decade. In 2013, Alberta had an average volunteer rate of 50.1 per cent.

If the trend in people donating more time and resources for others in the community holds true, statistics for the current year should be reflected in this year’s survey information.

Produced by Stefan Strangman

Thumbnail courtesy of Stefan Strangman

jpankratz@cjournal.ca and sstrangman@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Cheryl Russell, crussell@cjournal.ca