Early in the season, holiday needs look plentiful
November 03, 2010
The kickoff to Gilford's Thanksgiving food drive Monday showed signs of a busy season with 53 families already on the food basket list and 115 children in line for holiday gifts.
Gilford Student Services, now working out of the SAU office, and staff members helping with the food drive have a lot on their plates.
"So many families have been asking for help so we started earlier this year," said Nancy Bordeau of Student Services.
Numbers are just slightly above last year in terms of families requesting help, but these numbers may fluctuate as time goes on and situations in families change for better or worse, she said.
"It's only November so our numbers could easily grow," Bordeau said.
In past years, the Gilford School District used to hold food drives one school at a time, but with a stronger demand, all school drives now coincide with one another.
"The need became stronger about two years ago. We are now in our third year of this higher need," said Bordeau. "I think it does have to do with the economy. People are trying to do this all on their own, and they realize the stress of it by the holidays and see they may not make it through."
Schools are also trying to make the food drive fun for students and add incentive by allowing for some friendly competition, such as Gilford Middle School's food drive last year, where GMS Principal Marcia Ross challenged the students and said she would double their contribution to the drive.
This year, staff volunteers such as Jennifer McGonagle, the nurse at Gilford Elementary School, are also setting up a contest for students with rewards, as well as involving the student council, as Rosanne Sheridan does as school nurse at GMS.
Gilford High School is also in on the fun with the help of English teacher Scott Hutchison and GHS nurse Meg Jenkins.
Thanks to these familiar faces representing the food drive at each school, Bordeau said she believes more families in need will come forward due to their comfort level with these individuals.
"A lot of people hate to admit they are having a hard time," said Bordeau.
She said Student Service's move to the SAU office has been a nice change in some ways, since it provides more confidentiality when families stop in to pick up their food baskets and holiday gifts, without having to enter the schools.
The Thanksgiving food drive will run in all three Gilford schools for the next three weeks, and food donations will be accepted even after the drive is over since a number of items will go to holiday vacation donations as well.
Bordeau added that there is no real deadline when it comes to families in need picking up the phone and asking for help.
"People may also call last minute since things may look great one day and not so great another," said Bordeau. "On the flip side, we also get some people who offer their baskets to someone else since things are looking up for them."
While anyone in the community is welcomed to donate Thanksgiving food items with all the fixings, lunch items for children during their holiday break, or to adopt a child and send them gifts during the holiday season, only families in need with at least one child in the school system are eligible for a basket, a turkey, or gifts.
Bordeau said it is also hard on some families during school vacation time, when children are home for 10 days and no longer receiving their free or discounted lunch at school.
Some food items raised through the school food drives will be delivered to the Gilford Community Church, which will sort out items and hand off a portion of Thanksgiving baskets to families, along with turkeys thanks to church member donations.
"The church's food contributions and even their sorting is a great relief for us. We appreciate their help," said Bordeau. "There are always a good number of items. We can hold some for the holidays and some can also go out into the community."
Bordeau added that it is always a nice change to see families who were in need of baskets and gifts last year paying the favor forward by donating to current families in need this time around.
Monday, Nov. 22, is the official pick up date for Thanksgiving baskets at the SAU office located on Belknap Mountain Road, across from the Village Store.