Keith Moore, vice-president of Pelham Cares’ board of directors, hard at work taking stock of the stock in 2021. BERNIE PUCHALSKI

Annual Pelham Cares event coming up

Keith Moore has a long history with the Pelham Cares food drive. It started 15 years ago when the Fonthill realtor and his wife, Christine, helped out by picking up food donations from the doorsteps of Pelham residents.

“My wife and I ran out of our route so we went back to the Lions club and asked for another route. They told us ‘We don’t have any but go to the diner because they can use you there. ’ ”

The couple went to the former Donut Diner to help sort the mountain of grocery bags of donated items being sorted at that location.

“We realized when we walked in there that there’s a whole lot more involved than stepping up to someone’s door and picking up food boxes,” he said. “I gave one of the volunteers my card and said, ‘If you need my help, call me.’ They called the next day.”

It was the beginning of a long relationship.

“They had me come in and do some [sorting and packaging of food] and I have been here ever since. Now I am the vice-president of the board of directors too.”

Moore has gotten more out of the volunteering than he has ever given and encourages others to get involved.

“It is a few hours out of your day — it might be a three-hour shift — the help is always appreciated and every volunteer walks away feeling good.”

To volunteer, call 905-892-5300 or visit [email protected]

Started in 1991, the Pelham Food Drive was held every year on the first Saturday of December. The Covid-19 pandemic changed all that and last year the food drive consisted of people dropping off donations at the Meridian Community Centre.

“The Town stepped up and said they had a space we could use, and we did five weeks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Moore said. “It was phenomenally orchestrated and this year it is at the same location and scenario.”

But the drop-off times and days have changed.

Volunteers will accept donations at the Meridian Community Centre each weekend between Nov. 12 and Nov. 28. Donations, including gift cards and monetary offerings, will be accepted Fridays from noon to 7 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to 3 PM.

Pop-up food drives will be held Saturday, Nov, 20 from 9 AM to 2 PM at Food Basics and Sobeys on Highway 20, and the home of the Fenwick Lions Club, at Centennial Park in Fenwick. Food, hygiene, and monetary donations will be gratefully accepted at all three locations.

The top ten most needed items are: canned chili and stews; canned fruits and vegetables; Side Kicks or Hamburger Helper; large cans of soups; rice mixes; instant potatoes; peanut-free school snacks; flaked ham, chicken or turkey; laundry soap and scent-free soap.

“The food drive is our largest resource for donated food,” Moore said.

The goal is to collect 3,000 wine bottle boxes full of food.

“That would carry us late April to early May. The goal is basically to fill up the shelves in the basement,” he said. “Last year, 1,800 boxes of food were donated and we were thrilled with that.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has made this year’s food drive even more important for Pelham Cares, which receives no government funding.

“Our need has dramatically increased. Nobody expected Covid to last as long,” Moore said. “At first it was just a passing thing but our challenge now is accommodating all the requests from individuals and families.”

Compared to the same time last year, there has been a 28 percent increase in emergency orders and a 38 percent increase in individuals registered with Pelham Cares. The demand for the organization’s Thanksgiving hampers increased by 14 percent this year.

Pelham Cares uses established policies for screening and assisting its clients. The biggest challenges facing the organization is the increase in numbers as well as the dietary requirements of clients. Individuals and sometimes even entire families have dietary restrictions and accommodating those requests are costly. Pelham Cares is trying to provide more healthy foods and protein sources through local farmers and other community partners.

With the aging of existing Pelham residents and the growth in Pelham’s population, Pelham Cares expects its client base for all its services to continue to grow.