Another successful Big Blue Food Drive for St. Vincent Place in Sault Ste. Marie

St. Vincent Place in Sault Ste. Marie is thanking the community for another successful Big Blue Food Drive. Hundreds of volunteers drove around the city collecting food donations in what has become St Vincent's biggest annual event.

"It’s become an annual tradition for my daughter and I to drive around the city and collect the canned goods for St. Vincent Place," says Shauna DiGasparro, who along with her daughter Mackenzie, spent their Saturday morning collecting canned goods.

"I started volunteering at St. Vincent Place with my mom a few years ago," says Mackenzie. "I also volunteer in the food bank and the soup kitchen as well sometimes."

Shauna, who is also a board member at St. Vincent Place, says the ongoing pandemic and rising food costs have been putting a strain on the food bank.

"The more donations that we can get and the more community support that we can get, we can continue to provide this valuable service for the vulnerable people in our community," she says.

Meantime, Nat Cicchelli, Executive Director of St. Vincent Place, says the Big Blue Food Drive is expected to carry them into the winter.

"We do let out a lot of packages every Wednesday and Saturday to the people in need in the community," says Cicchelli. "The stuff collected today and in the last week will probably last us until about January."

It takes a large number of volunteers to pick up, deliver and sort the donations.

"The driving and collecting portion of the day we had 52 driver-runner pairs, so more than a hundred out helping with that," says Sara McCleary, who works in the office at St. Vincent Place. "Here today sorting, we're at about 40 because our capacity for the room is only 60 so we've got to limit it."

McCleary is the coordinator for St Vincent's "Lunches For Learning" program, and she says recent donations have allowed her to keep up with increased demand.

"With the outpouring of support we've had from the community, including the donations from the Dovigis and Algoma Steel, we're actually going to be able to pull some families from the wait list so that we can bump it up 130 families that we're going to help with our program now," she says.

McCleary and Cicchelli point out that although the Big Blue Food Drive is the biggest event for St. Vincent Place, it's important to keep the donations coming in year-round, especially with demand at the food bank continuing to increase.