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Food drive: Disability-advocacy group in Chilliwack collects 900 lbs of food

Chilliwack Progress - 5/15/2024

A recent food drive for the Chilliwack Salvation Army, created by users of the very same food bank, raised more than 900 pounds of food, plus financial donations.

Chilliwack People First, a self-advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities, said their collective goal was to help people just like them.

They wanted to do it "to help the community, to help Salvation Army because… they do so much for people in need," said member Tim Burgess.

The local group is a chapter of People First of Canada, the national voice of people with an intellectual or developmental disability. The organization is about advocating for human rights, citizenship rights, accommodations rights and language rights.

"People First isn't just about the members of the group, it's about helping other people," said member Ramona Harder.

A lot of members in the group have used the food bank and regularly visit The Pantry, a place where fresh produce and other food is available daily at the Chilliwack Salvation Army.

There are 13 members in the group and some of them wrote up a statement together, explaining why they like People First.

"We're our own community within a community. We can't do much on our own, but can do a lot together to help places like the Salvation Army that helps us so much. That's the best part of People First."

The local food bank is currently filling 1,500 food hampers every month. Just two months after Christmas, the shelves were dwindling. That's when People First decided to step up.

"The self-advocates coming up with the idea to have a food drive after Christmas and just doing it of their own accord, just gave me that much more drive," said Chris Kizmann with the Salvation Army.

They set up collection barrels around Chilliwack, at various grocery stores, businesses and city facilities. The Salvation Army supplied the barrels and then helped pick up all of the donated food.

From March 1 to 31, People First collect 912 pounds of food, plus financial donations.

"We're a small group and for a first-time fundraiser on this scale, we're really proud of ourselves and learned a lot to make the next one even better," said member Danny Fisher.

The group sits on several local boards that plan and implement ways to better Chilliwack. In the past, they've attended forums to talk about accessibility, transit, housing, and raising the amount of both provincial and federal government funding for persons with disabilities.

"We do a lot of advocacy for people with disabilities because… it's not easy to live on a low income. So we basically speak about that and write letters to governments," said member Shawn Palmer, adding that others can join the 19+ group.

"I love what the group is doing," Kizmann said. "I love the organization in general, and them trying to spread the word and build their membership. We're hoping this becomes a yearly tradition and we're willing to help."

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