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At Your Service: 27 tons of love

The Kinettes are looking for a big room for their upcoming Christmas hamper campaign.
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A food drive is not as easy as it sounds. Behind the scenes of the citywide grocery bag collection, there's a squadron of hundreds of volunteers carefully and 'COVID-safely' co-ordinated by the Red Willow Community Church. DANIELLE ROCHFORD/Supplied

St. Albertans stepped up in a big way for the 2021 Fall Food Drive. All told, the collection weighed in at more than 27,600 kilograms.

A squadron of volunteers organized by the Red Willow Community Church went out on Saturday, Sept. 18, to visit every street across the city to pick up grocery bags of donated non-perishables to help out the community organization.

According to church office manager Marian Rochford, the co-ordinated effort was as professional as they come, even under the strict public-health guidelines to keep the volunteers and the public safe from COVID-19.

"It went really, really well. It was very smooth, and that was good," she beamed.

More than 300 volunteers, working in teams of drivers and runners, were out in full force that day — many of them families or cohorts — with many more on the waiting list to help should the need arise. As they returned to the church to clock back in, they were thanked in many ways, including with a lunch of Nitza's Pizza, served by other church volunteers.

"It's a wonderful family outing that you can do, where kids grow up learning to do service for their community."

Anyone who didn’t have their bags picked up can drop off their donations at collection points in most grocery stores. The bags can also be brought to the food bank Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The facility is located at #30, 50 Bellerose Dr. Call 780-459-0599 or visit for more information.

Space ... the Kinettes' first frontier

The St. Albert Kinettes are hoping for a more “normalized” holiday season in 2021 along with a little extra elbow room. The service club is putting out an early call for help in the shape of an 8,000-square-foot room to allow them to collect, sort, and pack hundreds of hampers of food and toys.

As the Kinettes look ahead to December and the club's 55th annual Christmas Hamper campaign, members are taking a moment to reflect on how 2020 went. The short answer: it was tough.

“It takes a lot of heart when you're there at two o'clock in the morning on the Friday and you're just like, ‘OK, we got to get through this and be back there at eight’,” offered Tracy Nadiger, the club’s public relations director.

“But … it's worth it because when you start to hear the stories of when you drop off a hamper and people are in tears and so happy, then you’re just like, 'OK, this is worth every hour I don't sleep.'”

The ripple effects of COVID-19 caused economic chaos in many people’s lives, dropping donations at one point to about one-tenth of what they typically would have been with two weeks left to go. It was a dramatic turn from its 2019 campaign when the club also had the use of a 1,000-square-foot space on 137th Avenue in Edmonton. It was generously donated by Dr. Mark Knoefel of Oasis Orthodontics and his wife.

Of course, 2020 brought a pandemic upon the world, and so the Kinettes had to make do with the Kinsmen Banquet Centre (aka the Korral) at the corner of Riel and Rodeo Drives. It was one-third the size and they were only allowed 10 people in the room at a time, as per public-health guidelines. To make the best of things, they requested donations of gift cards.

The year 2021 could still offer its own dramatic turns, but the Kinettes are trying to stay ahead of the game as best they can.

"It's a bit early for us to get volunteers and those kinds of things yet and we don't know what Fill-a-Bus is going to look like. It's a bit early for all that stuff but the actual location is our big concern right now."

Visit for more information on the group and its annual hamper campaign. Anyone who is interested in helping in any way can send an email to [email protected] or by calling Nadiger at 780-293-3637.