The 12th annual Spirit of Giving campaign in support of the Mustard Seed Street Church & Food Bank got underway Friday, Dec. 3, at the Bay Centre with an official proclamation by the Victoria Town Crier, a speech by Mayor Dean Fortin, a silent auction, and a generous $10,000 donation from the Bay Centre to the Mustard Seed.
Speaking to Douglas shortly after the event concluded, Fortin said, “There are so many families in circumstances not of their own design, but still they need help. So many of us are one, two, maybe three paycheques away from being in a situation where we are going to have to rely on our neighbours, and this is a time when we get a chance to step up and say, ‘You know, I care about my neighbours, I have compassion, what can I do to help make a child’s life better?’
“It’s sad, in a sense,” Fortin continued, “that this is about food and clothing, about helping parents buy Christmas presents – things that so many of us take for granted. But that’s the thing about Christmas: It’s the time when you recognize that you shouldn’t take things for granted. We should count ourselves as fortunate, and if we have the capacity, we should be helping others.”
The irony of asking Victorians to step up and give at a time coming so soon on the heels of a recession was not lost on Fortin.
“Many of us have known challenges,” the mayor said. “Yet the Mustard Seed has received thousands of volunteer hours from people who are in difficult situations. They’re serving breakfasts, packing bags of donated food … they recognize that what really defines as human beings is our capacity to help others. Whether you can donate money, time, blankets, whatever you have, we all have the capacity to give it a little bit this time of year and recognize that we’re alive, we’re fortunate, and we can help others.”
Other guests and speakers included CFB Esquimalt formation chaplain Major Doug Friesen; Revs. Tom Oshiro and Chris Riddell of the Mustard Seed; and Bay Centre general manager Darlene Hollstein. The Victoria High School Band performed traditional Christmas carols while volunteers handed out free coffee, cookies, and hot apple cider.
Since its inception in 1999, the Spirit of Giving campaign has raised more than $2.4 million (combined cash and food) for the Mustard Seed food bank. The general public can donate non-perishable food and cash for the Mustard Seed until Dec. 24 at the Bay Centre’s Spirit of Giving location on Level 2. The Mustard Seed food bank is currently assisting more than 7,200 people every month; nearly 1,700 are children and over 1,000 are seniors on fixed incomes.
“The Spirit of Giving campaign has been an important part of our community for over a decade,” Fortin said in a statement. “The Mustard Seed does outstanding work on behalf of all Victorians. I encourage you to donate what you can, so that all members of our community can celebrate during this season.”
Hollstein honoured the work done by the Mustard Seed, saying, “Over the past 11 years, members of our community have demonstrated incredible generosity through the donation of food or cash towards the Spirit of Giving campaign. We are proud to be part of this event which has become an essential tradition that supports individuals and families in our downtown community.”
Please help spread the holiday spirit to families supported by the Mustard Seed by dropping off your financial or non-perishable food donation at the Bay Centre. With the buying power of the Mustard Seed, your financial donations will go a long way.
For more information, see www.mustardseed.ca.
Photos by Travis Bower.