Calgarians opened up their hearts Saturday morning in an effort to give back to the veterans who served on the front lines and those who are continuing to serve Canada.
The Veterans’ Association Food Bank successfully delivered more than 150 hampers fully stocked with food, personal hygiene items and Christmas gifts for families in need.
Executive director Marie Blackburn says veterans need to be recognized as a pillar of Calgary’s community and shouldn’t be left behind this Christmas.
“Many veterans when they come back, either suffer from post-traumatic stress or a lack of job skills to obtain employment, so this is just our way just to thank them for what they do for us,” she said.
“When the doors were shut to access a veterans food bank three years ago, it was so important for us to make sure these veterans still had a stable food source and just to make sure we take care of them.”
The initiative is especially important to veterans like Wayne Federation, who served two tours with the Canadian Armed Forces in Cyprus back in 1974.
He struggled to adjust to society upon returning home from war and serving 22 years in the army.
“I have complex PTSD that I got back in Cyprus in the 70s, I was diagnosed in 2012 and I’m suicidal, I don’t like crowds, I can’t bear to hear loud noises and physically my body is deteriorating,” Federation said.
“Receiving a hamper has helped when I’m in between jobs or when I’m just on my own, it lifts my spirits up automatically to have someone knocking on your door, or even someone you may have served with.”
Fellow veteran Carmen McKay agrees that it’s not just the food or supplies in hampers that provide help, it’s also the camaraderie amongst others who have experienced war.
“It’s very obvious when you’re missing a leg or got scars on your face, but it’s the hidden wounds on the inside, so we assist one another,” he said.
“That’s the way that we survived in the field and that’s the way we’re surviving today by helping one another because we are much stronger together than being alone.”
More than 100 cars lined up bright outside the Veterans’ Food Bank in northeast Calgary early to collect hampers.
A fleet of volunteer drivers, including Nora Alford gave their time to spread some Christmas cheer.
“We need to share, and do whatever you can to help other people,” she said, holding back tears. “Keep a smile on your face, just be nice, it’s tough right now to do that because of the way things are.”
Lisa Barnett also picked up and delivered a hamper Saturday alongside her son.
She has family members who are veterans and wanted to help out any way she could.
“They’ve given so much to our country and have helped us have such a great life here that it’s really important that we acknowledge their contribution and help them every way we can.”
And that contribution is more important than ever to veterans in need like Wayne LaPoint.
His message this holiday season is a simple one.
‘Our doors are always open, please get to know us and listen to why we’re doing this.”
The Veterans’ Association is continuing to look for more volunteers and says it is always in need of donations. For more information, call 403-367-8387.