by Adrienne Baker
The annual Spirit of Christmas Fund has become the Concordia Campus Ministry Student Emergency Food Fund. The reason is simple: more students are coming for help, all year long.
"There is just more need," said Peter Côté, the chaplain in charge
of the project. "More students
are coming into the University
who don't have the financial resources, but desperately want that degree."
In past holiday seasons, Campus Ministry held the "Spirit of Christmas" campaign to raise money for their food voucher program. In 1996-97, the amount spent in food vouchers totalled $13,210, with 365 student users. The total for 1997-98 was nearly double that amount -- $23,825 -- for 539 student users.
The increase is partly attributed to the extraordinary demand during the ice storm. The demand had been increasing steadily over the last six years, but between late January and March, it grew by 400 per cent. This was partly because of increased publicity. When the ice storm hit, Student Services sent out a newsletter advertising services available to students, one of which was the food voucher program.
"There were days when we had students lined up," Côté recalled. "They just had nothing. They had used every cent they had to survive the ice storm period."
In response, the Board of Governors used money from the Capital Campaign to set up an emergency fund for students, allocating $10,000 to the food voucher program. The program also received some generous donations, which has allowed Campus Ministry to continue helping students throughout the year, and Campus Ministry is now encouraging potential donors to give all year long.
Although the demand for food vouchers has stabilized, it is still marginally higher than this time last year. The name change is an effort to remind people that student poverty exists all year long.
Sarah, a single mother of three, agreed. "If it wasn't for the program, I wouldn't be in school." With a welfare cheque of $620 a month and rent of $610, Sarah has a difficult time feeding her three boys.
Campus Ministry will hold a variety of fundraisers as the holidays draw closer. One is "buying" decorations for the big Christmas tree in the atrium of the J.W. McConnell building, but donations are accepted year-round, and new ideas are welcome. Contact Campus Ministry at 848-3588.