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Community ᐄᐦᑖᐧᐃᓐ

Communities provide helping hands this holiday season

BY Julie McIntosh Dec 21, 2019

This year, Cree communities are once again organizing to create a special show of holiday kindness. To relieve hunger, stress and worries this cold holiday season, families and individuals in need can turn to their local food banks and health services to access resources and support. 

From turkey dinners to toy donations, here are some of the activities that communities have prepared for the season. 

As in previous years, Mistissini has received a list of 90 families who could use additional support over the holidays. The band office sends turkey baskets, which includes necessities to make a delicious turkey dinners for friends and family. Families also receive grocery gift cards worth between $240 to $450 to help ease the stress of gift giving and providing during the holidays.

In Chisasibi, volunteers are working at the Justice Correctional Building to distribute vouchers December 9-13. Pick up of community donations and goods will begin December 13 from 9 am to 5 pm.

Since the initiative began in 2017, families in Wemindji will receive gift cards rather than baskets. Organized by the local Fundraising Committee, donations have come from far and wide. Local businesses in the community have graciously given financial aid, while Goldcorp has donated $5,000, and Air Creebec gives out turkey baskets for families. A toy drive has also been discussed, but no date has been determined as of yet.

Wemindji has organized a toy drive for children aged 12 and under called a Christmas Gift of Hope. You can find information on their Facebook page – Wemindji Christmas Give of Hope – such as the Grade 6 children charity game against teachers to raise donations for the cause. People are asked to contact volunteers running the Facebook page, or call the Justice building for more information.

In similar fashion, the Ouje-Bougoumou band office has organized for the first time a Tree of Hope for families in need. Communities members or workers can choose a number from the tree and pay the suggested amount written on the card. All proceeds go towards purchasing items for the food drive and families in need. In collaboration with the women’s ministry and wellness department, food baskets will also be delivered to homes in need.

“It’s just to ease their minds,” said Carrie Bush, a band office worker in Ouje-Bougoumou.  “They don’t have to worry about this over the holidays. Everything you can do helps.”

The Ouje-Bougoumou Health Clinic has also organized a gift donation program for children under youth protection called the Angel Tree. By choosing a number, participants buy a present that will be given directly to the children. The last day to participate is December 13.

People can register in person or call Elizabeth at the Nemaska Wellness Centre or Candace at the Fire Hall to access the food bank. The pick-up date is yet to be determined, but a flea market is planned for December 14, where community members will be able to buy a table of items – food, clothing, appliances – for $25 or make food donations.

Waskaganish Wellness Society is accepting either non-perishable foods or financial donations until December 17, and the local FCNQ in Whapmagoostui is also accepting non-perishable food items.

For more information, contact your local band office, health service or food bank.

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Julie is a Metis journalist who's Cree ancestry stems from the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba. Her coverage of local, political, indigenous and environmental news has been printed in publications across the country. She is currently based in Montreal.