Pronounced need in this season of giving
As we flip to the final page of the 2022 calendar, our thoughts turn to what’s commonly referred to as the season of giving.
For the luckiest among us, that can look like a pile of thoughtfully selected gifts under a glittering tree. Zoom out a bit, and that tree is likely standing in the living room of a safe home — one that has working heat, running water and a well-stocked refrigerator.
It’s a nice tableau, and one that’s increasingly out of reach for many in our city and province — especially during a challenging year such as this. Sky-high inflation and supply-chain disruptions, as well as ongoing economic fallout from a pandemic that has also shuttered businesses and taken away livelihoods, have meant more in our communities are feeling the squeeze, and many are struggling to make ends meet.
According to a new report from Harvest Manitoba, a survey of its clientele found nearly one in four people who use the organization’s food bank are employed, a figure that has increased by 50 per cent since last year. More children rely on food banks in Manitoba — around 15,000 per month. Students and disabled people are also disproportionately affected by food insecurity.
Rising costs plus increased demand equals challenges for charitable organizations, as well.
Connie Walker, president and CEO of United Way Winnipeg, said in a recent media interview that she’d never seen such desperation in Winnipeg. An average of 400 people call the 211 help line weekly, unsure how they are going to buy food, keep the heat on or make rent payments. “There are a lot of people hurting in our city,” she said.
Indeed, when the Christmas Cheer Board opened its phone lines on Nov. 8 for the 2022 season, it received a staggering 40,000 calls on its opening day, with 13,000 in the first hour alone.
Ms. Walker’s comments came on Giving Tuesday, a movement created to inspire acts of generosity in response to the frenzied consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Acts of generosity aren’t always about making monetary donations, although those are certainly needed and appreciated. Acts of generosity can also involve volunteering your time. The pandemic has hurt many organizations’ volunteer programs, which have been struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of recruitment.
Acts of generosity aren’t always about making monetary donations, although those are certainly needed and appreciated. Acts of generosity can also involve volunteering your time.
Acts of generosity can include organizing or contributing to a winter boot/glove/sock collection, or a holiday toy drive. It could mean donating to Harvest or United Way, or sponsoring a Christmas Cheer Board hamper — or helping out with assembly or delivery. It can be as simple as paying it forward in line for coffee, or shovelling a neighbour’s snow.
And when it comes to monetary donations, it’s important to remember — especially when so many people are feeling the pinch — is that no amount is too small. It all adds up to make a difference.
The season of giving can also be the season of isolation and loneliness, conditions that have only been amplified by the pandemic. The past couple of holiday seasons were difficult, and this one is poised to be equally challenging. Bolstering our social safety net is a way to reconnect with community, as is engaging in acts of service and generosity that make someone’s life a little easier or their day a little bit brighter.
As the weather gets colder and the dark nights grow longer, our generosity is a source of warmth and light. Whatever you are able to give in this season of community connection and pronounced need — whether it’s money, time, energy or compassion — please give generously.