UNFC accepting donations to help community

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

The United Native Friendship Centre (UNFC) is accepting many forms of donations in an effort to help those less fortunate this Christmas.

UNFC Executive Director Sheila McMahon says they serve a wide range of people with their services and usage has increased with the current state of the economy.

“We have families that use our homelessness program for the food bank and families within many of our programs,” McMahon said. “We’re finding this year with the cost of everything going up, you know, groceries, gas everything our foodbank is being well utilized.”

Because of the extra expenses even people who are working full time for lower wages are availing of the centre’s services.

“We have families that work, they make minimum wage, but this time of year everything’s taxed,” McMahon said. “So we try to support them and make their Christmas a little easier.”

Similar to the Salvation Army, UNFC has an “adopt a family” program so people can help make Christmas nicer for a family. The clients who receive these hampers are part of UNFC’s other programming.

“We have over 25 programs within the Friendship Centre,” McMahon said. “That includes our childcare and our zero to six programs at our childcare centres. So we try to pick the families that are most in need of support.”

Once again, the Fort Frances Lakers Junior A Hockey Team and their fans held a food and toy drive to assist with UNFC’s Christmas “Adopt a Family Program.” Susan Ledger (left), Wasa-Nabin Worker and Jennifer Kivimaki, Homelessness Outreach Worker attended the game to accept donations prior to puck drop. –Facebook photo

In support of those efforts, McMahon says UNFC has many community partnerships that have come together to help.

“We do have partnerships in the community which is amazing,” she said. “We have the Lakers food and toy drive last Friday night, and then the Beyak Automotive Group, they’re doing a Christmas donation for the older pre-teen age. They’re purchasing toys and they’re going to deliver them to the friendship centre which is always great because I find a lot of the toys we receive are for younger kids. So we try to reach out to the pre-teens and teenagers because it’s harder to purchase for them.”

Students in Confederation College’s Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program are also partnering with UNFC. They will be holding a popcorn sale fundraiser and are collecting food and toys for the UNFC. More information on these events is available on the “Confederation College Rainy River District Campus” Facebook page.

Two upcoming events that UNFC and the local Salvation Army benefit from are “Fill a sleigh” at The Bargain Shop on Dec. 3 and Stuff a Cruiser on the same day at grocery stores throughout the district. In Fort Frances the Salvation Army and UNFC will benefit from donations made at Safeway and The Place Fine Foods. McMahon says they are always looking for volunteers to help first responders during the stuff a cruiser and anyone interested can contact Jennifer Kivimaki at jkivimaki@unfc.org

In addition to their Christmas hampers for program users, UNFC also partners with the Fort Frances Family Centre to provide Family Centre clients with hygiene products.

“We try to put together a Christmas gift for them,” McMahon said. “Hygiene products, socks, hats, mitts. Smaller items that we can give them because a lot of them don’t have the facilities to cook so we really have to think about what we put in packs for them.”

Another opportunity to donate to the UNFC’s efforts will be this Saturday at the Fort Frances Santa Claus parade. The U 18 AA Fort Frances Canadians will be working with the Fort Frances Power Corporation at the parade, collecting non-perishable food products, hygiene products and hats and mitts for the UNFC.

For more information or to make a donation you can contact the UNFC at 274-8541 or check out their Facebook page.