Slow start to season drives up demand for financial assistance 

Whistler Community Services Society is reporting the highest demand yet on its emergency financial assistance services and believes the poor snow conditions this season are the cause.

The society says it typically receives two applications a month for financial aid but it is looking at approximately 20 requests for the months of November and December.

The service allows for one-time assistance in the event of a financial emergency threatening the applicant’s health or well being. The applicant is also helped to explore alternative means of income.

Society co-ordinator Janet McDonald says the lack of snow means traditional seasonal jobs aren’t available and people are struggling to pay the bills. In addition, the working hours of many on-mountain jobs have been cut back until the snow or more visitors arrive, she added.

"Normally jobs have kicked in by now and things stabilized but people all across the range, from families to individuals need extra help."

She says rising accommodation and living costs could also be a factor, judging by the feedback she gets.

"I think the word is out that Whistler has plenty of jobs going compared to the rest of B.C., where the economy is a bit slow," she explained. "However, many families are not prepared for the cost of living or the problem of finding accommodation."

Fortunately however, Whistler residents are rallying to help those in need. The Society says food and money donations have been pouring into its donation bins and office. McDonald says between 50 and 60 people a week are turning up at the Food Bank during distribution periods and there has been enough to give everyone a couple of bags of groceries.

"Individuals, local businesses and corporations have been incredibly generous and this year is the first time all our 20 Christmas hampers have been all sponsored and put together by outside groups or families."

Under the system, the sponsors are given a list for a specific family’s hamper, which includes the requested food items as well as the age and sex of the children in the household. "It saves on a lot of shopping and work when hampers arrive on the doorstep ready to go," she added.

The society said it wanted to thank all those who have helped out this season, especially local businesses Garfinkel’s, Moe Joe’s and The Grocery Store, Nesters and IGA which have been providing ongoing support over the years. McDonald says these businesses have made it easy for customers to lend a hand by providing easy access donation bins or given a portion of their door cover to the society.

• • •

Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church will be hosting a Community Christmas Dinner again this year.

The fourth annual free dinner will be held Saturday, Dec. 23, between 7 and 10 p.m. Everyone is welcome, especially those who are away from home, are alone or in need of some companionship.

While the dinner is free, tickets should be picked up ahead of time. Tickets, which include a bus pass for the evening, are available from the Employment Centre, the Re-use it Centre, the food bank, Nesters and the Catholic Church.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or make donations can call the church office at 905-4781.

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