THERE are some 500 families in North and West Vancouver who are being kept from the brink of poverty by the North Shore's Harvest Project. Now, as the non-profit struggles to set those families back on their feet, it is reaching out to the community for help.
The 20-year-old organization, which uses donated groceries, clothing and life-skills counselling to help marginalized residents get back on their feet, is hoping to raise $200,000 over the next eight weeks to cover its costs for the coming year.
The campaign, dubbed Season of Hope, aims to tap into the spirit of generosity that grips the community at this time of year.
"This is the time when people have their charitable giving top of mind," said executive director Gary Ansell. "This is the time when they can really help Harvest Project be there, doing its good work for the next six to 12 months."
Last year, the charity set a similar target, but missed it by about $40,000, as the economic downturn, natural disasters and other factors drew funds away.
"With the various things we've been through, the charitable giving environment has been dropping, and we're not immune to that. . . . We've had to struggle," said Ansell. "This year, if we can be top of mind for folk and reach our $200,000 goal, we would be in a much better position to provide our programs at full steam and not turn anyone away. That's what I really don't want to have to do."
The money will go towards staffing, supplies and other costs at Harvest's Roosevelt Crescent facility in North Vancouver. The headquarters houses the charity's various services, including its grocery depot, its Clothing for Change Boutique and its client-care program, which aim to help those in need re-enter the workforce.
"They're getting the food support so they can make ends meet in order to buy time so they can up-skill themselves, get the other job they're looking for," said Ansell. "We offer a hand up, not a hand out," he added, quoting the organization's motto.
While the service helps to spare those who use it from the physical and psychological toll of poverty - and helps to spare their children that hardship - it also benefits the community at large, he said.
"The cost to society of a family going into poverty is very dramatic," said Ansell. "It impacts the individual's ability to earn, (increases) their dependency on the medical system. . . . They're not able to contribute to the tax base and there's more demand on other services too."
There's a long-term consideration when it comes to children, especially, he noted. People who suffer through poverty in their most vulnerable years, from age one to age six, are much more likely to fall into poverty in adulthood, said Ansell.
"We have quite a number of children, upwards of 200 to 300 children, who are dependent on their parents receiving their safety-net support from Harvest Project. Those are being protected from entering the devastation of poverty as well."
The Harvest Project's campaign will continue into mid-January.
To learn more or to make a donation, visit harvestproject. org or call 604-983-9488.