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Alliston Lions rely on community to ‘Stuff a Bus’ and save Christmas for the less fortunate

December 2, 2021   ·   0 Comments

The Alliston Lions Club is helping local families in need again this holiday season with their annual Christmas Hamper program.

In all, about 160 families in New Tecumseth will benefit from their efforts, helping make the magic of the season a reality for those who’ve faced hard times this past year.

On Saturday, November 27, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., the Lions worked with community partners to “Fill A Bus” full of non-perishable food items, new unwrapped toys and gift cards, at Giant Tiger, Walmart and Zehrs. In all about four tons of food was collected.

“We partnered with Landmark Bus Lines, New Tecumseth Fire Rescue and 92.1 MyFM to make this event the best food drive ever!” said Lions Jaime Karsch. “Thank you to everyone who helped us, help those in need this holiday season.”

The idea for Stuff a Bus morphed from a local fire fighters’ initiatives.

Terrina Williams had previously driven a Landmark school bus through local neighbourhoods and collected food, which she then donated to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. This year, however, with the COVID–19 pandemic still impacting fundraising efforts locally, a new collaboration was formed.

“Given COVID, and being unable to travel the route in the past, the Alliston Lions developed the Stuff a Bus moniker,” said Alliston Lions Club president Mike Jerry. “This year, the Nottawasaga OPP joined us, collecting food at Zehrs. There was a beneficial double booking by Zehrs of the location. Through an awesome relationship that the Alliston Lions have partnered with the OPP because our organizations have a mutual goal – keeping all donations in New Tecumseth and the surrounding Alliston Lions Catchment area including Lisle to the north, Cookstown to the east, Rosemont to the west and New Tecumseth proper.”

The Lions Christmas Hamper program has been a yearly tradition for more than 25 years (with the exact start date unknown). 

“We do know the program was started by the late Lion Jim Kenn after whom we have named the Lion Jim Kenn Memorial Food Drive and the neon yellow toques that are ‘sported’,” said Lion Jerry. “The first year they struggled to find 25 families to assist, but with the current economic climate, inflation, and tax increases, families are struggling mightily.”

For 2021, the Lions have identified162 local families, with any excess food taken to the Food Bank. The hampers will start being delivered the evening of December 17, and contain non-perishable food items, toys for children to age 12, gift certificates for teenagers 13, 14, 15, a food voucher for local grocery stores, and McDonalds Happy Meal certificates.  

In 2020, the Lions collected seven tons of items and this year Lion Jerry says they’ll be grateful for whatever they receive, and then adjust how many families they are able to support.

But despite its success, the Lions say the program is bittersweet.

“This is a program that we would love to see put out of business – because no one needs it,” said Lion Jerry. “However, given decisions being made at the various levels of government, including inflation, we foresee a continuation of this program [long into the future] with our generous community coming to the aid of those less fortunate.”

As the community continues to grow, Mike Jerry says the Alliston Lions will look to partner with more and more schools, churches and social programs to identify those in need. He says the community has been very generous over the years, and local citizens and business owners continue to be the unsung heroes of the program.

“Thank you to a generous and kind community that allows the Alliston Lions Club and our community partners to make Christmas a little less stressful for those that are less fortunate,” said Lion Jerry.

By Wendy Gabrek


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