Family Centre weathers COVID for Thanksgiving

Ken Kellar

It takes a community to come together for those in need, and there are few better times to do so than Thanksgiving.

The Fort Frances Family Centre is currently in the preparatory stages of throwing a Thanksgiving dinner for those who make use of their services, which volunteer Monica Sus said will be open to anyone in need.

“Anybody who wants to come in, just come in off the street, it’s for absolutely anybody,” Sus explained.

“We have gotten enough cash donations to cover the amount of the food right now, so it’s all taken care of and our volunteers and everybody will each do a little something.”

The dinner is set to run on Thursday, October 8 from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m., and Sus explained that its not the first holiday dinner the centre has put on for those who access its services, noting that they’ve done Christmas, Easter and the anniversaries of their opening.

“They’re good,” Sus said of how the dinners go.

“We just serve food until we have nothing left. We have lots but we just keep stretching it out and do what we have to do to make it stretch and it works.”

In Sus’ eyes, it’s only natural to host these dinners, and she feels that it’s a Canadian thing, to provide a free dinner to those who might otherwise go without.

“I think it’s a normal Canadian thing to do, that everyone should have a Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.

The dinners themselves are also well received by those who frequent the Family Centre, with the offerings stretched out over a few hours to give ample opportunity to everyone to stop in at their own pace.

“They like it, but sometimes they don’t like it if there’s too many people here,” Sus said of those who stop by for the dinners.

“So if it’s too busy at noon, they might come a little bit later, at two or three. At the end of the day they love it.”

In the past, the Family Centre has received cash and food donations to go towards their dinners, but this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has made procuring some parts of the meal more challenging. Sus said that the Family Centre is currently not accepting more donations of food simply due to the little time left before the dinner, but is always grateful for cash donations to go towards other efforts.

“We’ve already gotten people donating cash, and because we’re so close to thanksgiving we don’t want someone suddenly coming with an extra turkey, but we take cash donations always,” she explained.

“We do a food bank, so we always need canned goods, and that’s something that has gone down because of COVID.”

Sus explained that in years past they would see a number of donations come in from different events that would ask for canned goods as an entrance fee, so the pandemic shutting down or postponing those events has a ripple effect on organizations like the Family Centre who benefit from the donations. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but Sus said it’s noticeable.

“A lot of things have not been taking place,” Sus said.

“There were a lot of vendor blenders and things that would have canned goods as an entrance fee, so we’ve noticed a lack of donations, even for our Thanksgiving dinner. In the past we would get canned vegetables donated maybe six months before, and we would use those canned vegetables or Stovetop stuffing but this year we didn’t have that. It’s ok because I purchased all that, but it’s different this year. You can feel the difference.”

Anyone interested in donating to the Family Centre can stop in daily between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with the Family Centre now able to provide charitable donation receipts for tax purposes. The Family Centre will also be hosting a Coat Drive with the Associates of Ste. Marguerite d’Youville, with drop off dates from October 1 to October 15 during the Family Centre’s operating hours.