‘Stuff a Cruiser’ back for second year

Peggy Revell

The OPP’s “Stuff a Cruiser” campaign is returning to Rainy River District for a second holiday season to help out those in need by filling the pantries of local organizations.
“Rainy River District OPP is pleased that the first-annual ‘Stuff a Cruiser’ was so successful,” enthused local Cst. Anne McCoy.
“We would like to continue and build on the success,” she added.
This year’s “Stuff a Cruiser” campaign is set to take place Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. -4 p.m., when OPP cruisers will be collecting donations of non-perishable food items from the public outside of Wal-Mart, Safeway, and The Place here in Fort Frances, as well as Cloverleaf Grocery in Emo.
These donations will go towards supporting the programs run by the local Salvation Army, United Native Friendship Centre, Sunset Country Métis, and the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau for its annual community Christmas dinner.
“Last year, we stuffed more than 14 cruisers full of non-perishable food items, which filled our local food banks well into February,” recalled Cst. McCoy.
“[E]ach year, our community partners spend numerous hours trying to collect food items to support families in need and we’re glad that the ‘Stuff a Cruiser’ helps take the pressure off these organization so they can focus on helping families in need,” she remarked.
“It helps tremendously,” said Rachel Spuzak of the United Native Friendship Centre here.
“It gives us the opportunity to help more families that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to help,” she reasoned.
Spuzak stressed there’s definitely a need within the community. And while the UNFC annually adopts families and creates hampers for them, the number they can help out depends on their budget.
“[‘Stuff a Cruiser’] gives us a lot more opportunity to help more of our clients, and they get more in their hampers,” she noted.
“And it alleviates so much more stress on them because we can fill them.”
“It’s so overwhelming­­­,” agreed Heidi Smith of the UNFC, referring the donations which came in on the one day that “Stuff a Cruiser” was held last year.
“People are so generous,” she enthused. “The community really puts out when the need is there so I think that’s really awesome.”
By the time all the donations were unloaded that day, Smith said they had run out of floor space at the UNFC.
“But it goes quickly,” she added, noting that while they were able to fill 10-15 hampers for local families last season, there’s always extra need at the UNFC’s food bank both before and after the Christmas season.
For families, food sometimes can be last on the list just because it’s Christmas time and they’re stretching their money to make sure their kids will have a present or to pay a heating bill, Smith said.
“We see a mad rush until probably mid-February,” she noted. “[So donations are] always appreciated. Very appreciated.
“It really goes a long way because it would probably be pretty bare in there.”
“We have a lot of families in need in our community,” echoed Capt. Angel Sandoval of the local Salvation Army, saying the “Stuff a Cruiser” campaign is a “wonderful” opportunity for people to support others.
Donations through “Stuff a Cruiser” will help the Salvation Army with its annual “Adopt a Family” program.
“Last year was successful, the campaign, and helped us to fill the basket that we normally prepare for the public,” Capt. Sandoval said.
“There was a lot of support for those in need. It was good.”
Capt. Sandoval noted his ministry alone serves some 200 families in need across the district—and he thinks this number will remain the same, or even be a little higher, for this coming year.
Besides participating in the “Stuff a Cruiser” campaign, people also are welcome to donate directly to the Salvation Army, he added.
As well, they still are in need of volunteers to ring bells for the annual Christmas kettle campaign.
Meanwhile, the OPP will be out prior to the “Stuff a Cruiser” day to raise awareness about the event.
“I have a huge brand new red bow for the cruiser to decorate for the [Santa Claus] parade, and we’re grateful to have such support from our communities,” said Cst. McCoy.
“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone stop by one of the four locations on Dec. 10 and help us stuff as many cruisers as we can,” she enthused.
In related news, Atikokan’s “Stuff a Cruise” is set to run this Saturday (Nov. 26), with the OPP cruisers to be located outside Atikokan Foodland from 3-5 p.m. and then at the Atikokan Economic Development office from 5-7 p.m.
Donations from this drive will go towards supporting the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre/Ashandiwin food bank, Atikokan Christmas Cheer, and the Faith Lutheran Church food bank.

The economic development office also will be providing free hot chocolate and doughnuts to all those who help out with the program.
The “wish list” includes items such as canned soup (tomato, cream of mushroom, chicken noodle, vegetable, etc.), canned vegetables (corn, beans, carrots, peas, tomatoes, etc.), canned fruit, baked beans, canned meat (tuna, salmon), turkey, ham, and Kraft Dinner.
Pasta (macaroni, spaghetti), instant potatoes, cereal, peanut butter, jam, tea, coffee, packets of sugar, canned pasta, cranberry sauce, Stove Top stuffing, pancake mix, syrup, powdered milk, and packets of salt and pepper also are needed.