Door-to-door effort shifts focus to food bank donations
HAVING GROWN PAST TRICK-OR-TREATING, successive groups of Elmira young people have spent Halloween night gathering non-perishable food for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
Starting from humble beginnings, Citizens Always Need Supper, or CANS as most know it, is now in its 15th year.
The initiative began in 2003 when a couple of 12-year-old Woodside Bible Fellowship attendees decided to do something a little different with their Halloween evening, opting to go door-to-door collecting food bank donations rather than candy.
Since that time, CANS has collected more than 30,000 lbs of food during its one-night drives.
Jaron Bowman, member of Woodside, is the current leader of CANS.
“It has been such a success. It is a lot of fun to get people together,” he said. “Everybody who volunteers has a blast. They go around with their friends and it’s kind of like remembering old times, trick-or-treating, going around from house to house and just doing something good for the community. It is just a great way to get people together and the community.”
The Grade 12 student from Elmira District Secondary School has been with CANS for four years now.
“When I was in Grade 9, a Grade 12 named Will Allen passed to me how to run it, and now next year I will train someone else how to,” he explained of his involvement with the group. “Somebody will run it until they get to their Grade 12 year and then the next year they will train a Grade 9 and help him learn how to run it. Then they will carry it on for another four years, and so on.”
Bowman explained that although it is facilitated at Woodside, they encourage anyone who would like to help to come out.
“It has just grown. It’s run by people from Woodside, but it is open to any youth in and around the area to come and help out,” he said. “There is no sign-up required or anything. On Tuesday night, Halloween, they just have to show up at Woodside Bible Fellowship at around 6 p.m. We have a little pep rally and costume party happening beforehand, and then we will get groups out into the streets around 6:30 p.m.”
After 15 years, the group has the process down into a well-oiled machine.
“We get routes for different groups to complete so that we can cover every house in Elmira,” he said. “In the past few years we have collected around 3,500 to 4,000 lbs of food.”
Bowman says they will take anything canned or non-perishable. Currently the Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s most needed items are canned meat and fish, canned pasta, canned soup, tomato sauces, canned stews and chili, canned fruit, dried beans, beans in sauce, rice, hot cereals and baby formula.
Jaron Bowman will be leading the local CANS initiative this Halloween, that will see some 50-60 youth from the community collecting non-perishable items for the food bank.