Muskoka Oldtimers Fall Food Drive – October 7

Sorting donated food at the Bracebidge Fairgrounds. October 2013

Sorting donated food at the Bracebidge Fairgrounds. October 2013

More than two decades on and going strong

Bracebridge, September 30, 2014 – With the coming of the Thanksgiving season, the time of year is upon us for the Muskoka Oldtimers’ Fall Food Drive for the Manna Food Bank.

On Tuesday October 7 from 5 to 8 o’clock, dozens of volunteers in hockey jerseys will go door-to-door around Bracebridge collecting grocery bags filled with non-perishable food donations for the Manna Food Bank, just as they’ve done every year for about two decades now.

“I love that night,” says Manna organizer Garry Thompson. “I feel more community-minded that night than any other time of the year. There’s a great energy to it.”

Over the course of two decades, the Oldtimers Fall Food Drive has become far and away the most important food drive in the year for the Manna Food Bank, which is particularly in need of the following items;

  • Canned: fish, fruit, meat, milk, pasta and pasta sauce, vegetables, baked beans
  • Rice, crackers, cereal
  • White sugar, flour
  • Pasta, macaroni and cheese
  • Powdered milk
  • Peanut butter, jam
  • School snacks

It gets easier each year, Thompson says, as more and more are giving foods that are needed rather than clearing their larder of obscure items (canned artichokes, anyone?), and many now set their bags of food out on the doorstep ahead of time, saving the volunteers’ valuable time.

The fall food drive is a tradition in the community. Most are aware of it, contributing food, cash, or cheques, and volunteers come out in droves, with long-term participants that include the Cadets, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides.

“We just do our best to help out,” said Troop Scout Leader Todd Wirth, whose 3rd Bracebridge Sea Scouts have been on-hand to help sort the food as it arrives at the Bracebridge Fairgrounds for four years now. The boys’ work contributes to their Citizenship Badge for volunteer service, plus, he says, “They know it’s for a good cause.”

“After the fact, we talk about it,” says Audrey Forth, who volunteers for Pathfinders (12-to-15-year-olds) for the Girl Guides. “We talk about, ‘How would you feel if all of the sudden your mom and dad aren’t working and you don’t have money to buy groceries and you have to go to the food bank. How would that make you feel?'” We talk about it because, you never know, next week it could be your family in need of some assistance getting groceries.”

Laura Pepper is a Second Lieutenant and Training Officer for 2250 The Muskoka Pioneers Royal Canadian Army Cadets, 12-to-18-year-olds who have been helping out, also sorting food at the Fairgrounds, for about seven years. “It’s a little bit of a social event for them; they love it, and they totally get it. We do so many community service events throughout the year. It’s a large focus of the program.”

After 20 years, Dave Salmon says goodbye.

After 20 (plus) years, Dave Salmon says goodbye.

And while many of the Oldtimers have been participating since the beginning, this is the first year ever that the food drive is taking place without Dave Salmon at the helm. Salmon left sizable shoes to fill when he stepped down last year, but by all reports Oldtimer and teacher Rob Fraser is doing an admirable job.

Anyone wishing to make a donation who has been missed or wants to donate later can either drop their non-perishable food contribution off at YIGs or Metro or phone the food bank at 646-0114 for pick-up.