The Fort St. John Huskies annual food drive looked quite a bit different this year, but was still very effective.
On Nov. 29, players had the community come to them instead of instead of going door-to-door, with players stationed at schools and parking lots around town to receive donations for the Salvation Army food bank.
The new format enabled the team to still hold the important event, while doing so in a safer manner due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“The food drive was a great success. All the shelves are loaded and there are about two pallets full of extras,” said Salvation Army Executive Director Cameron Eggie.
In addition to the collected food, an anonymous family donated $500, Conoco Phillips donated $1,500, and the Salvation Army kettle manned by the Huskies brought in $1,501.
For the Huskies, currently unable as the NWJHL season is suspended due to public health restrictions, it was a chance to do something as a team while still helping out the community.
“It feels good to be able to help out and put in some community service. Even with everything that’s going on, it’s nice that we were still able to do this,” said defenseman Braydon Davis.
Added rookie forward Devan Minard, “It’s nice to be around the boys, and we’re lucky to be out here.”
The drop-off stations weren’t the only things that were different.
The Huskies team bus wasn't a factor for the first time in the event’s 23 year history.
To eliminate the amount of touch points, and because the North Peace Arena is closed, the team's coaches and management collected the food and brought it straight to the food bank, where volunteers were on hand to unload the items directly on the shelves.
Traditionally, the team would have had scores of volunteers sorting food at the arena, and dropping items off at the food bank at the end of the day. This saved Salvation Army volunteers from having to stock the shelves later in the week.
“It’s worked out really great. We’ve saved the Salvation Army a lot of work, and we’re able to have all the items sanitized before being put on the shelves,” said Traci Hammond, the team's special events co-ordinator.
Despite the pandemic, the team still had enough volunteers, with players, parents, and even some not involved with the Huskies still helping out.
“I’m visiting from White Rock. My daughter asked before I got here if I would be interested in helping out, and since my grandsons play hockey and love following the Huskies, we’re glad to be here,” said Adelle Broddle, who stocked the food bank shelves Sunday morning alongside her grandson Greysen Coulam.
Overall, the team had 55 volunteers help throughout the day, with eight to 10 at a time inside the Food Bank, while the rest were stationed around town. The Fill the Bus normally has two-to-three times as many volunteers, but that wasn't feasible this year with Covid restrictions.
While the players were happy to be doing something as a team, they still miss playing and are hoping for good news on the league resuming soon.
“It’s pretty disappointing. At least we’re still getting to practice and play hockey, and we’re still going hard in practice, but it’s not the same,” said forward Conrad Wiebe.
Needed boost for Salvation Army
Eggie says the food drive is one of the biggest sources of food donations during the Salvation Army’s busiest season, and was especially needed this year as other food drives haven't taken place because of the pandemic.
All four big toy drives are still taking place this Christmas season, ensuring that all who sign up for the Christmas Hamper program will get what they need. Eggie said there is about as many registrations as last year, but that they will be prepared if a surge of registrations come in.
“We prepared for a bit of a hit this year with donations, because we’re mindful of the generosity that people have been showing all year, and are in good shape because of that,” Eggie said.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.