Vulnerable Calgarians see an outpouring of kindness for the holidays

Harmony for charity. The Yodel Club Heimattreu sings carols at the Knox United Church in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. This is the first time the Calgary Carol Festival was staged after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. (Photo by Iris Young/The Press)

Kindness is alive and well in Calgary this holiday season as various groups mobilize in creative ways to help vulnerable citizens.

I think the biggest campaign that we have going on for Christmas would be our 12 Days of Giving — kind of a play on the ‘12 days of Christmas,’” said Paige Reimer, social media content creator for The Mustard Seed.

The Mustard Seed is a Christian organization that provides care and support for people experiencing homelessness in five cities across Alberta and British Columbia, including Calgary.

Starting Dec. 12, the organization will request city-specific donations to fulfill the Christmas wishes of vulnerable individuals.

“We consider what our Calgary citizens need. Of course, Christmas means winter, so we need more winter items, like jackets and boots,” said Reimer. “Those tend to go pretty quickly.”

An abundance of food is synonymous with the holidays. However, according to research published by the University of Toronto’s PROOF, Alberta had the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada in 2021. With food and grocery prices up by 9.2 per cent since 2021, an increase in food bank use can be expected.

For this year’s holidays, the Calgary Food Bank continues to fight hunger in Calgary through a series of fun and engaging activities.

The Mayor’s Holiday Food Drive is running until Dec. 31. Mayor Jyoti Gondek kicked it off on Nov. 19 with the 30th Annual Stuff-a-Bus event. This year, the mayor continued the Councillor’s Challenge, wherein each of the city’s 14 wards competes to collect the most food for the food bank.

“Food is the first and the last thing that comes right off the budget. That’s why, especially with increasing food prices and inflation, it becomes harder and harder for people to make ends meet,” said Betty Jo Kaiser, the food bank’s communications coordinator and master of ceremonies for the Calgary Carol Festival.

The Knox United Church has hosted the festival since 1978, showcasing choirs from various communities and ethnic groups around Calgary. This year’s event is the first after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“This year, we added another night because we just used to have three nights,” said Festival Coordinator Arthur Barbosa.

“Lots of choirs wanted to do it again, so this is kind of like a real outpouring of wanting to get back to normal.”

With an optional food bank donation as the price of admission, spectators enjoyed being serenaded with beloved carols from all over the world, and even participated in carol singing.

“It’s really for anyone. If you can’t afford to go to concerts or something like that, this is a perfect opportunity to listen to some really good music,” said Barbosa.

“This event is an act of kindness in a lot of different ways. Of course, it’s for the food bank, but it’s also basically for people’s mental health. Music has a big impact on mental health.”

The food bank has long recognized the link between mental health and food insecurity.

“I think that’s the amazing part about Christmas time,” Reimer said.

“We look at it as a very selfish holiday, that it’s all about getting gifts, but I disagree. I think it’s so much more than giving gifts; it’s about sharing what you do have with those who don’t.”

Challenge accepted. A call for Calgary Food Bank donations at the Saddletowne Public Library in Calgary on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. Drop-off boxes like this are scattered all across the city’s 14 wards, inviting food bank donations from the public for this year’s Councillor’s Challenge. (Photo by Iris Young/The Press)
About Iris Young 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Iris Young is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23. View more of Iris' work here and follow her on Instagram.