By Robert Frank
Claudine Campeau expresses unreserved praise when she talks about West Islanders’ generosity.
The Fonds d’aide de l’ouest de l’île executive director singled out as an example a March 29, 2011 fire, which ravaged an apartment complex on Pierrefonds boulevard near Sources. Many people were left homeless, some wearing nothing but their pyjamas.
“Fifty families showed up here to get clothing,” recalled Ms. Campeau. “Within two days, the store was empty.”
“We put out a call and got a red carpet response: cars were lined up on the street outside our store, waiting their turn to bring supplies in.
“I was astonished by how unselfish West Islanders are with their time to work as volunteers and with their money. Our outdoor donation boxes remained stuffed with clothing until November.”
Ms. Campeau reported that, last year, 77 volunteers helped out on a regular basis.
“At Christmas, we asked for new toy donations. Soon, our conference room was packed with toys for 170 children,” enthused Ms. Campeau. She noted that Fonds d’aide can issue charitable receipts to people who provide the original sales receipt for their donation.
Ms. Campeau added that many people have taken their own initiatives and now organize food drives independently, then ask Fonds d’aide to pick up the groceries.
“Every day, we go pick up and deliver furniture,” she continued. However, once autumn rolls around, Fonds d’aide transportation resources have to be devoted to collecting food.
“Last October, our food supplies started to get low and we were really worried, but every time we are in need, something happens and we are able to take care of it.
“At the beginning of December, the food started to come in, but we thought that we would still be short of turkeys. By the last week before Christmas, it seemed as though we would have to go out and buy them ourselves. Then we received a call from a school that had conducted a food drive. They gave us 40 turkeys.”
To ensure that there’s always enough supply, Campeau has instituted procedures to swiftly cut off freeloaders.
The goal is that the only people who benefit are those who need it. She exchanges client lists with other charities to ensure that no one is visiting more than one food bank, and screens out those who clearly have sufficient means.
“We get a lot of immigrants fresh off the boat on Friday who show up at our door on Monday to get food,” she explained. “Before people come to Canada, they have to demonstrate that they can live on their own means for at least three months. Immigrant families of two adults and three children must show that they have at least $10,000 on hand.”
“When they tell us that a friend told them that they should come and see us, we explain that’s not sufficient.”
Ms. Campeau contrasted this with the plight of refugees, who do not always have the same resources as immigrants, and are often deserving of immediate assistance.
West Islanders can find out how to volunteer or donate on the Fonds d’aide de l’ouest de l’île web site: fdoi.org