Chris Casey is a big-hearted guy who wants everyone to have a good Christmas. As a member of St. Albert Legion Branch No. 271, he is particularly concerned about veterans.
Casey regularly volunteers at the Veterans Association Food Bank of Edmonton, which manages a warehouse in Edmonton’s west end. Inspired by the volunteer spirit, he is instrumental in hosting food drives at St. Albert’s Legion for the veterans’ food bank.
The food bank is currently experiencing major shortages, and Casey hopes St. Albertans will once again display their legendary generosity and drop off bags of groceries at Branch No. 271.
In 2022, the local legion collected enough food to fill a one-ton van. He estimates the groceries filled close to 50 hampers. This year, requests have increased sharply.
“The need is constantly increasing. Two years ago, we moved 55 hampers. This year, that’s up to 165 hampers, and we think we’re just scratching the surface. We serve military veterans, some serving members and RCMP veterans,” Casey said.
The Veterans Association Food Bank schedules one day each month for hamper deliveries by volunteers. Some recipients are elderly and are unable to visit the warehouse. Others are hit hard by the price of fuel and limit travel.
Casey said people request hampers for a variety of reasons.
“Circumstances in people’s lives change," he said. "People are injured in service and have to deal with a series of mental and physical problems. Also, life happens. Marriages break up. People lose their jobs. People get sick. That’s why they've come to rely on us.”
He said many veterans in need avoid visiting traditional food banks.
“For a lot of veterans, it’s pride. But if they can come to us, we’re their own family,” said Casey. He added veterans tend to have unique needs in terms of requiring support. They range from filling out complicated paperwork for Veterans Affairs to living in inner-city homeless shelters, and the association provides whatever supports are vital.
“Here at the association, we provide as much fellowship and support as we can. For instance, every second Tuesday, we have veterans’ coffee. And we encourage veterans to volunteer. It helps bring them into the community.”
The food bank has listed essential priority items. They include mushroom soup, canned mushrooms, canned milk, sugar, hamburger helper, pancake mix, syrup, salsa, assorted cereals, coffee, and tea as well as canned ham, turkey and chicken. Kleenex and toilet paper are also needed.
The food drive continues until Saturday, Dec. 9. Groceries can be dropped off at St. Albert Legion, 6 Tache Street.