A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.

A Hand Up feature image

Food banks are so important to communities and it’s getting to be that time of the year when people start thinking about them. Here is something I bet you didn’t know: I will admit that in the past five years, my family has needed help from them. A Hand Up

I was in school full time, just starting the second year and bound by contract to complete the course. My husband got laid off from a job he’d had for twelve months and a day with no notice or severance. Right before Christmas.

It isn’t that we weren’t trying to work, or used any money we had for tobacco, liquor, drugs or any of the other things people seem to believe people needing help do. We just had no money coming in all of a sudden. We were already strapped with the one income and the job was an entry level. My husband, a university grad, had been laid off from another job he’d had for 15 years, two years prior to that and hadn’t been able to get back into a similar position. He’d taken this latest job because he needed to work. We did not have a safety net.

Our kids missed out on school trips, parties, and sports events.  We downplayed everything as far as birthdays, Christmas, new clothes. I hated Christmas that year. Everywhere you looked it was “buy, buy, buy.” I still feel so angry about the commercialism that seems to define this event every year. 

Good people get laid off, (in our case twice), can’t get work, or don’t earn enough to cover expenses when they do find work. It happens. It isn’t something I am proud to share – to have asked for help from the charity of others. As a matter of fact it made my skin crawl to have to reach out. Why is that?

FoodBankTips a Hand Up

I do not feel anger towards people who are receiving assistance. You never know what someone is going through and I have faith that people are inherently honest. 

But for me it was different. I was filled with guilt, a sense of failure and so much anger. Overall though I didn’t want anyone to know.

I can’t believe that a few people we know have no interest in contributing to food banks, charities or any sort of drives to raise items to donate to people in need since they don’t think anyone deserves to have things for “free”. I find this sad. I have never understood that attitude. I also don’t understand why I was so ashamed when I became a part of this group and horrified that others would find out. Needless to say our family and friends didn’t even know what we were going through.  

I was just grateful I could feed my family that year.

Our family has always made a point of contributing to food drives in the past – before our troubling times. Most people we know are ardent supporters of local charities and will participate in most of the things that come their way. My kids were raised to participate or even initiate acts of charity in the form of collections of many things. We have worked independently, with the schools and with the Scouts to raise food, toys, books, bedding and supplies for the animal shelter, clothing for families who are in need due to fires or other circumstances. There have been carwashes, lemon aid stands, garage sales, apple sales… 

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We’ve participated in annual food drives where we select an area to deliver a letter to the homeowner asking them leave canned donations on their porch for pick up in a few days. These are very successful. (I’ve included an example of a letter below that you can use as a template if you want to try it in your neighbourhood.) 

It can happen faster than you realize. Who knows, one day I might have to ask for assistance again. I hope not. But if I do – I will still truly appreciate all the effort and hard work the genuinely caring volunteers put into every single thing they do for others. And, I will donate whenever possible.

Dear Resident
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