Allana Garat doesn’t have to rely on the local food bank to fill an empty stomach, but it doesn’t stop her from working hard to make sure the shelves are stocked for those who do.
In Grade 12 at Edward Milne community school, Garat is one of hundreds of students and staff that raise thousands of pounds of food every year for the Sooke Food Bank, under the school’s 10,000 Tonight food drive program.
“The best part for me is when we take all the items to the food bank at the end of the night and see that the shelves are full. For me, it makes the Christmas spirit come alive,” said Garat.
The goal of 10,000 Tonight is to collect 10,000 non-perishable food items in a single evening of intensive work. The drive takes place Dec. 12.
“The program was actually started about 10 years ago by Belmont High (in Langford) and we joined in four years ago to collect food items specifically for the Sooke Food Bank,” explained Garat, one of the program’s organizers.
“The first year we fell short of our goal, but it’s been growing ever since and last year it was a huge success and we managed to collect over 14,000 food items. We’re going to try to do even better this year.”
While the actual 10,000 Tonight event is still a few weeks away people are invited to get a head start on the Christmas giving season by dropping off their donations early by bringing the food items to bins located around the community.
“We have bins at all the elementary schools, at SEAPARC Leisure Complex, the Stick in the Mud, and EMCS. People can drop off their donations and we’ll include those items in the count for the 10,000 tonight event.”
Unfortunately, one aspect of the 10,000 Tonight event that used to inspire students to work even harder was lost this year.
“In the past Belmont High, Royal Oak High School and EMCS had a friendly competition to see which school could collect the most. But Royal Oak is doing their event a week earlier and Belmont isn’t doing it at all. I think they couldn’t find anyone who would organize it, so that’s too bad,” said Garat.
But that change has done nothing to dampen the holiday spirit in Sooke.
“It doesn’t matter to us, really. We’ll have about 100 volunteers out there collecting food, counting items and driving volunteers. This year Sooke Minor Hockey is helping out as is the Sooke Soccer Club, so we’ll have a lot of help,” said Garat.
She added that anyone who has not had an opportunity to make a donation at one of the collection bins and who may not be around on the night of Dec. 12, can simply leave a bag of non-perishable food in a bag on their doorstep and volunteers will pick it up and add it to the other donations.