Elmira’s Colton Bauman and a consistently growing contingent of area residents of all ages will pound the pavement on Halloween night to collect non-perishables for the region’s food bank. It’s the seventh year for the effort.
The CANS project (an acronym for Citizens Always Need Supper), began as a chance for five or six kids who felt as though they were a bit too old to be trick-or-treating, to still go out into the community and do something fun. That goal changed from good times to giving back, and the number of participants grew from six to some 130 kids and adults who took part last year.
Bauman has spent his last four Halloween nights meeting up with the group at Woodside Bible Fellowship, one of only two of the original group of friends who started the venture years back. The project’s original creator, Dustin Martin, started university this fall in British Columbia. While Bauman believes Martin is planning to return to Elmira to take part in the event, he has passed on the leadership role.
In 2006, the group collected approximately 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) of non-perishable food items. The following year it brought that number up to more than 5,000 and the group exceeded their previous record this past year, rounding up more than 5,200 lbs of food, enough to cover the floor of a two-car garage, filling the 15-seater van used to transport the goods to the food bank.
In fact, so much food was brought in that it had to be dropped off at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region because the local operation at Woolwich Community Services could not handle the large load. Bauman said he is aiming for a similar result this year.
“I have been to a shelter in Kitchener and seen people with their families, people who either don’t have a lot of money or they are down on their luck and they just really need the food. They look forward to it.”
Although the project wasn’t quite as well received when it first began – Bauman even had one neighbour suggest he was collecting the food for himself – the community has now embraced the project and even looks forward to the group visiting their homes.
“I was surprised at the number of people who knew about it. When we told them we were coming looking for cans, they would say ‘Oh yeah! We have some things here ready for you!’ And they bring it right out,” he explained.
The collection, which runs for about three hours each year, is intended to reach every available home in the Elmira area. However, with so many volunteers scouring the different neighbourhoods in different directions, some houses might get missed, he added.
“I just hope that if someone has food to donate but their house is missed, they don’t just put it back in their cupboards. I hope they will still bring it to the food bank, or to Woolwich Community Services.”
Bauman said he hopes to continue participating in the collection for as long as he lives in the region, calling it a great chance to meet up with others in the neighbourhood and do something good for the community. A full stomach and food in the cupboard are something many take for granted, as he did growing up.
“We are not rich or anything, but we have always had enough to eat; I just wish that it was like that for everyone.”