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A new initiative to quickly get food to the hungry is set to take place on Canada Day at noon, and if enough volunteers come together across the North, organizers believe a ‘miracle’ can happen.

Mike Bokor, one of the facilitators of the NWT Miracle, said he and a team of core organizers are hoping to replicate an event that took place in Chatham-Kent, Ont. last month called the May 16 Miracle. 

During that event, Bokor’s sister was among several volunteers in the southwestern Ontario community who gathered about 47,000 lbs of food in a matter of hours.

The NWT Miracle campaign aims to round up donated food for those in need across the territory.

According to a news report, thousands of volunteers were amassed to cover 2,000 square km and served nearly 70,000 homes.

“We’ve been talking about it for a month or so and they (Chatham-Kent volunteers) unofficially broke the Guinness world record for most food collected in a day for charity,” Bokor said. “So I thought it was a great idea and I decided I would see how we can figure that out here. So I kind of just organized people from Yellowknife to try to make this happen.”

Bokor said the idea — similar to the Chatham-Kent effort — is that with so many people out of work with time on their hands, it’s a prime opportunity to get food to people who need it most.

The process is simple. Community organizers who volunteer through the NWT Miracle website will get in touch with their neighbours through email, asking them to leave non-perishable food items and other donations on their doorsteps. With enough residents providing a few donated food items each, Bokor believes that enough food and other necessities can be picked up by volunteers, amassed in a central location and then distributed to families who need it most.

Asked why he would hold it on Canada Day, Bokor said it makes sense to hold it on a holiday Wednesday when people are in a festive mood, rather than a weekend while many may be away camping.

“I felt like I’d be able to kind of get that sort of patriotism and put it towards helping people, rather than it just being a celebration,” he said.

Community captains and neighbourhood routes 

Community captains, representing volunteers in their neighbourhoods, will oversee the routes to pick up the food and drop it off at designated locations.

Volunteers organize donated items at a food depot at the May 16 Miracle food drive in Chatham-Kent, Ontario.
photo courtesy of United Way Chatham-Kent

It should only take about an hour for most people to complete the route, and with more people involved — both volunteering and donating — it will be easier to accumulate the food.

“So there won’t be a large gathering of people and we’re trying to do it in a safe and socially responsible way,” Bokor added.

He’s asking people to donate what they can, with a particular focus on what people might most need during the pandemic, including non-perishable food items, feminine hygiene products and cleaning supplies.

He said there isn’t a target goal, but said that obviously it would be beneficial if enough food could be raised to last people throughout much of the remainder of 2020.

“I would love it if we raised exorbitant amount and, you know, people in the territory didn’t have to worry about going hungry for four or five months,” he said. “That would be amazing.”

The effort was launched last Friday at noon and to date there have been 60 volunteers who have signed up with several community captains willing to lead in their neighbourhoods. As of Monday evening there was representation from Yellowknife, Norman Wells, Hay River, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Fort Providence.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been other efforts to round up food items for those most in need.

“I think the only difference (from other food drive efforts) is what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make it accessible for every person,” Bokor said. “So we’re not asking you to go out and buy $500 worth of groceries and put it on your front porch.

“If every person in the NWT put one can of food out, we could have 36,000 lbs of food. We want everyone to feel like they have the ability to help someone else.”

People interested in signing up to volunteer can register their names at The NWT Miracle. 

More information can also be found at the effort’s Facebook events page. 

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University...

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