Keith Johnson loves shopping sprees – particularly when a local non-profit reaps the rewards.
Eight months after spending 600,000 PC Optimum Points in support of the Eagle’s Nest Stoney Family Shelter in Mînî Thnî and just after his first anniversary of living in Cochrane, Johnson redeemed another 670,000 points in purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart Aug. 24. This time, it was in support of the Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area.
“Knowing all the good work the organization does here in Cochrane, they seemed like an obvious choice,” said Johnson. “Plus, the need for food in particular is really generalized throughout the community and there’s been a lot of demand for Helping Hands’ food-related services, as well as for the [Cochrane Activettes] food bank.”
Taking advantage of sale items, Johnson, with the help and expertise of Helping Hands food security programs manager April Baird and her two daughters Ashtyn and Addison, managed to stuff four shopping carts with just over $1,000 worth of purchases. The carts were filled to the brim with dried pasta, tomato sauce, rice, crackers, cookies, frozen meals and non-perishables, as well as various hygiene products.
According to Baird, the frozen meals will be used for their Meal Teams program, which provides emergency meals to other social services in Cochrane, including the Family Resource Network, Big Hill Haven, and the Cochrane Pregnancy Centre, among others.
The non-perishables and toiletries will go to the food bank, Baird added, and everything else will be used to periodically stock the free food sheds at St. Andrew’s Church and Bow Valley Baptist Church.
The donation is going to be a great help in providing food and essentials to the community, especially with the start of a new school year just around the corner, Baird noted.
“Kids going back to school can be an added expense on families that maybe they didn’t fully plan for,” she said. “We usually see a big influx for the food shed and our meal programs around this time of year.”
Helping Hands carries out daily food rescues where they pick up past-due food that is still safe to eat from grocery stores and businesses. Lately, they’ve observed people standing outside the shed every day waiting for the non-profit group to arrive with a delivery, according to Baird.
“This is supposed to be a zero-restrictions program, so there’s not supposed to be a line-up or a first-come-first-served mentality, but people are in such distress right now with the economic climate,” she said. “There’s way more anxiety and a real sense of panic in regard to food security.
“People feel like they need to wait for us or that they have to be there first to get the best of it or the most of it, which means we’ve got some issues.”
In the case of the free food sheds, Baird said its important to remind the community that Helping Hands is just there to fill the gaps.
“It’s a mutual aid program where the community takes care of itself,” she said. “The donations, for the most part, are supposed to come from community members making donations and not just relying on us.
“Those who have the capacity to give – if you can – do so.”
According to Johnson, most of the redeemable points he uses to make the donations are accumulated by his son and daughter-in-law, Darcy and Claire, who have a family of four.
Johnson sees it as an easy way to give back and the newfound tradition brings their family joy.
“It’s something that I’ve loved doing,” he said with a smile.