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2013-12-16 at NOON

Santa’s stop

By Matt Vis,
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Santa Claus arrived on a city bus to bring an early Christmas gift to a local food bank.

Thunder Bay Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union 966 dropped off more than 1,000 kilograms of food at the Thunder Bay Food Bank Monday morning.

The donations were collected on city transit buses throughout the past week, as well as during a four-day drive at the Fort William Road Wal-Mart location throughout the weekend.

The non-perishable food items are crucial for the food bank, especially with a decrease in other donations.

“Our cash donations are way down, but the food donations are holding steady,” board member Mike McLeod said. “Every little bit counts. Schools bring in donations and companies are holding little food collections and it’s all given away for free.”

Volunteers from transit rode the Santa Bus, which was fully stocked with boxes of items, to the food bank’s Miles Street location to begin unloading.

Thunder Bay Transit planning and marketing analyst Jon Hendel said the reaction of the food bank volunteers makes the campaign a worthwhile endeavour.

“You really understand how this food is benefiting those in need,” Hendel said. “The expressions on their faces, they are so excited and they know this is a real injection into what is necessary because the need is growing and we’re happy to help.”

The initiative began years ago with a single operator who would dress in a Santa costume and collect food items on his bus.

The scope of the campaign has grown significantly since then, with many members of the union becoming involved.

“We’re getting more and more members involved and there is a core bunch that usually helps,” ATU local 966 president Sheila Kivisto said. “It makes me feel like I’m contributing. It’s a big situation and it’s growing.”

The food bank provided the transit organizers with a desired wish list of items, mostly staples to help with meals.

The campaign delivered, bringing in a multitude of items such as canned vegetables, pasta and soup. Other items, such as canned meat, are still in high demand.

The goal for the food bank is to do its part to ensure as many people as possible have healthy meals during the holiday season.

“The need is always there, but the want is greater at this time of year,” McLeod said. “Everybody wants to have a nice Christmas and we want that for them.”

The food bank has not had a period without new sign-ups since March, with numbers steadily increasing throughout the year.

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