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Community ᐄᐦᑖᐧᐃᓐ

Wreath of Hope helps record number of Mistissini families

BY Ben Powless Jan 16, 2021

Every year, Meechum L’Inter Marché’s Wreath of Hope serves as a bright spot for Mistissini over the long winter months, giving back to dozens of community members who need a helping hand.

But this year, the grocery store went above and beyond its normal 75-90 gift baskets as donations and fundraising broke all previous records in the store’s 30-plus-year history with the Wreath of Hope. This year, over 200 families received donations. 

“With what’s going on in the world and with more people in the community, there was a sense of coming together,” said Meechum manager Steve Rombotis. “Plus, people are more exposed to local fundraising, so they were at ease donating even more. This awareness contributed to a successful campaign – people knew exactly what it was for.” 

With more people staying in their community due to coronavirus restrictions, grocery stores have become not just an essential service, but a major community hub.

Rombotis credited the youth council for a big part of the fundraising, including a food drive and Halloween trail, with all proceeds donated to the Wreath of Hope. Caisse Desjardins provided the biggest single donation of $10,000. 

Meechum also held a Tree of Hope fundraiser this year, raffling off a major prize which included a tree and numerous gifts, including toys, gift certificates and household items. In total, the raffle brought in $9,400. 

The other major success was an Asian lunch and supper fundraiser that had so many customers buy food that the store ran out. The band council had pre-ordered 160 plates through its social committee, in addition to community members, which was more than the store had anticipated. Meechum was forced to offer a second Asian meal day the following week to keep up with demand.

There’s some good karma for the store, Rombotis noted. The baskets given out included a gift certificate and Meechum immediately saw a big influx of shoppers. He said they had nothing but positive responses but didn’t anticipate that it would be such a success. Considering this, they decided to continue fundraising.

“Because our campaign was so successful, we’re able to continue the financial aid throughout the whole year. We estimate we could help one-to-four families every month. That’s a major difference from previous years, when it was just folks around the holidays,” he explained. 

Rombotis says people can donate at any time. “We want to continue the spirit of the campaign, so expect to see more in the summer for Wreath of Hope.”

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.