Nunatsiaq News
FEATURES: Nunavut December 13, 2017 - 11:30 am

Feeding Nunavut brings holiday cheer to everyone in Igloolik

"Thank you to each of the donors and volunteers"

JANE GEORGE
Stockings galore, bound for the children of Igloolik this Christmas. This photo shows just a few of the more than 800 stockings which will be distributed by Feeding Nunavut on Dec. 23. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)
Stockings galore, bound for the children of Igloolik this Christmas. This photo shows just a few of the more than 800 stockings which will be distributed by Feeding Nunavut on Dec. 23. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)
Two baby dolls are looking for the children in Igloolik who will receive them as gifts in stockings assembled by donors and volunteers with Feeding Nunavut. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)
Two baby dolls are looking for the children in Igloolik who will receive them as gifts in stockings assembled by donors and volunteers with Feeding Nunavut. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)
Students at the Stephenville High School in western Newfoundland pose with some of the 31 stockings they put together for children in Igloolik. (PHOTO COURTESY OF OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)
Students at the Stephenville High School in western Newfoundland pose with some of the 31 stockings they put together for children in Igloolik. (PHOTO COURTESY OF OF FEEDING NUNAVUT)

If you want to fully understand the meaning of “merry” and “happy,” which we often hear in various greetings at this time of year, on Dec. 23, visit Igloolik.

That’s where you’ll find a gym-full of volunteers who will distribute more than 800 stockings for children up to 12 years old in this community of about 1,700, where some 400 households will also receive food hampers to brighten their holiday meals.

This big pre-Christmas giveaway comes thanks to the non-profit group Feeding Nunavut and thousands of donors, nationally and internationally, who donated to its Christmas stocking and hamper campaign.

The stockings, mostly in bright red felt, edged with white trim or featuring a character from the film Frozen, are packed with items such as warm mitts, toys and games—or, in one case, with baby dolls peeking out over the top.

Some of the filled stockings were sent directly to Igloolik, while others were made up in the community, said Feeding Nunavut local volunteer organizer Dana Barker-Sheaves.

“What’s been overwhelming is the amount of children in the South who are sending them,” Barker-Sheaves said in a recent interview from Igloolik, where she works as the local housing manager. “That’s what we found extremely touching.”

This year more than before it seems like Canadians are helping other Canadians, she said, as the number of donors from across the country has grown.

Last year, the goal of the annual holiday drive—now in its fourth year—was to have a toy for every child in Igloolik.

And, in 2016, there was not a child who got left out, Barker-Sheaves said.

Asked about the impact of these gifts in the community, Barker-Sheaves said it was all summed up for her last year when a child picked up a wrapped box and said, “Now we have a present for Christmas.”

“That just touched me,” Barker-Sheaves said.

Once the stockings have been distributed this year, it’s up to parents and guardians to decide when they—or Santa Claus—want to give the stockings to their children.

“Our goal is to take the stress off the parents having to purchase something,” Barker-Sheaves said.

Along with the gifts, there will be lots of food going to every household, so no one will go hungry in a community where a turkey costs $80 and a recent study found two out of three people said they are short of food.

About 800 hampers will be filled, with two hampers earmarked for larger households.

The elders facility and service providers, such as nurses, will also receive hampers.

“We do not discriminate in the North. We are all forced to pay high prices for everything. It doesn’t matter where you work or how many people are in your family. If you live in Igloolik, you are a recipient of of a hamper,” Barker-Sheaves said.

In the hampers, people will find all the fixings needed to make a southern-style Christmas dinner, such as turkey, potatoes, carrots, mini oranges, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce and gravy mix, along with a bannock-making package of flour, sugar, oil, raisins and baking powder.

These foods were all sourced by Arctic Fresh, the new online business started by two Igloolik residents, Rhoda Angutimarik and her partner, Merlyn Recino, to offer most Baffin communities a lower-cost way to get store-bought food.

For the hampers, they’re putting most of the profit back into food to stretch the hamper money even further.

The hampers will also include country foods, such as char, seal or walrus, thanks to a donation from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association via the Hamlet of Igloolik.

The positive effect of the hampers in Igloolik is evident, Barker-Sheaves said. That’s because her organization sees fewer requests for Feeding Nunavut emergency food vouchers after the hampers are handed out.

The organization started fundraising months ago for the $12,000 needed for the stockings and the $15,000 for the hampers. Those amounts were topped by the first week in December.

Feeding Nunavut also supports school meal programs, emergency food aid and harvesters.

Feeding Nunavut has also successfully raised $12,000 for Inuksuit School’s breakfast program in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Because its work also includes advocacy and political activities, Feeding Nunavut can’t obtain status as a registered charity, so Feeding Nunavut donation receipts cannot be used for income tax purposes.

Yet, even so, many give.

A few weeks ago, Feeding Nunavut was overjoyed when it learned that $15,000 was coming from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

But that feeling didn’t last.

“We received a direct deposit of cash into our bank account of $15,000 that we had to return,” Barker-Sheaves said, “because it was meant for the food kitchen in Iqaluit.

“We are so happy for the soup kitchen, but our bubble was burst, and our celebrating was short-lived when the mistake was realized and we had to return the monies to the federal government. To be honest, it was shocking.”

But Feeding Nunavut just continued its fundraising efforts through its website and on social media, she said.

Feeding Nunavut isn’t looking for donations from Nunavummiut.

“We want Nunavut to be the recipient,” Barker-Sheaves said.

But she said she wants Nunavut to be aware of Feeding Nunavut “because we want Nunavut volunteers.”

Its goals for 2018 include rolling out the emergency food voucher program to other Nunavut communities.

“We really want the word out there,” said Barker-Sheaves, who encouraged any potential volunteers from Nunavut to contact the Feeding Nunavut Facebook page or website.

Barker-Sheaves, the mother of three young children, said the effort involved in the stocking and hamper drive is all worth it.

“You can feel how happy the community is. There’s a lot less stress,” she said.

Premier Paul Quassa, who also represents Igloolik as MLA, said he is grateful for organizations like Feeding Nunavut whose volunteers contribute their time and effort to provide food baskets and toys for Nunavut families and children.

“Thank you to each of the donors and volunteers who have helped make this a happy holiday for all Igloolikmiut.”

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