Seven hundred frozen turkeys and grocery bags were handed out to Squamish Nation homes on-reserve in North Vancouver and the Squamish Valley this week to ensure all members have a belly full of food on Christmas Day.
The initiative, which will also provide an extra 300 care packages to off-reserve members in need of support, was sparked after an influx of families called the nation’s member services for help to put a little extra food on their tables over the holidays.
“It was only November, and more and more people were calling and saying they needed help,” said Monica Jacobs, Squamish Nation member services director.
“Normally we do a Christmas hamper program and we can help maybe 220 to 240 families. The phone calls started coming in, and over 400 people were asking for hampers.
“We just couldn’t do it, so I went to our council and said: ‘could we put a turkey on everybody’s doorstep instead?’.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen, but it did.”
Squamish Nation council, member services, Ayás Mén̓ Men child and family services, sponsors, and supporting businesses teamed up to make it a reality for members.
Currently, the nation has more than 4,000 official members, with more than 60 per cent living on reserves.
The services team wouldn’t usually have so many members calling for help over the holidays, but circumstances changed during the pandemic.
“Since COVID, a lot of our members lost their jobs or their hours had been reduced,” Jacobs said.
“I know how hard it is because I have family of my own that are struggling right now.
“Council has had this initiative of trying to put a little bit of food on everybody’s table, and I think our members got a little bit more comfortable with being able to ask us for help.
“Our community has become tighter.”
With more sponsors and businesses offering donations, the member services team could also put together care packages for members to go along with their turkey.
On Dec. 14., Jacobs spent the day handing out the hundreds of grocery bags and turkeys on-reserve with volunteers from the community and said members were overwhelmingly grateful.
“My body is tired. I’m almost 60 years old, but I’m out there riding the truck and delivering turkeys and grocery bags, but at the end of the day, it is just a great feeling,” she said.
“Everybody was yelling, ‘Merry Christmas! Tell our leadership, thank you so much; they understand what we need.’
“So, we know we are making a difference.”
Squamish Nation member services have also sent gift cards to off-reserve members in need, so they didn’t have to go without either.
“With what limited funds we have, we are spreading it out as best we can,” said Jacobs.
“We’re trying to help everybody.”
In a letter to members, council co-chairs Tiyáltelut, Kristen Rivers, and, Skwetsi7meltxw, Joshua Joseph thanked the staff for their hard work.
“We have seen countless departments come together to make sure our members have food on the table, and their needs are met. We thank you, Squamish Nation staff,” they wrote.
“We can see a light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic, and that brings much comfort. For now, however, we must remain vigilant in protecting those who are most vulnerable."
On behalf of the council, the co-chairs extended their "warmest wishes for a peaceful and joyous holiday season."