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Horticultural group in Cochrane helps fund Helping Hands Society

“It really helps us,” McDonald said. “The free food sheds were really built to create an opportunity for mutual aid for community members.”
The horticultural society handed over a cheque for $1,740.50 to Helping Hands last week.

The Cochrane and District Area Horticultural Society (CADHS) is helping out the Helping Hands Society.

No, it’s not a tongue-twister.

The local green thumbs held their annual plant sale a few weeks back, raising $1,740.50, which is the most they’ve ever raised with their spring fundraiser.

They promptly turned that over to Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area, who, according to executive director Laura McDonald, can really use the help to purchase badly needed gift cards this summer.

While they receive many donations of food stuffs, as well as non-perishables from two local grocery stores, there are often gaps identified in the sheds, so staff can take the gift cards to purchase other food items fill those gaps.

“It really helps us,” she said. “The free food sheds were really built to create an opportunity for mutual aid for community members.”

McDonald said the gift cards are especially popular with volunteers who not only are able to fill gaps, but also add some fun to what can be a stressful experience for some.

“We hear all the time how much volunteers love to go on shopping trips, they love to wander through grocery stores and think, ‘What would be a really delightful surprise for someone to find in the shed?’” she said.

They encourage volunteers to take a look in the shed before they go off on their shopping trips to give them an idea of what’s currently missing.

“There may be a ton of hamburger buns, a ton of hot dog buns, well, that’s no good without hot dogs, ketchup and mustard,” she said.

The cards allow the sheds to offer complete packages to people, in addition to random choices.

Helping Hands operates two food sheds in Cochrane, where people in need of, well, a helping hand, can go to pick up food without having to go through any application process.

One thing that sets these sheds apart from other charitable food providers is that there is no vetting.

“The free food sheds are for everyone, it’s a basic right that we all have access to, and we want to put resources to use that exist in Cochrane that, quite likely, were going to waste,” McDonald said.

“We believe especially in today’s climate, you might have been fine in 2022 but you’re not fine anymore,” she said. “You might have been fine in March, but you’re not fine in June – that’s a common reality.”

She added the hope is that when people who use the sheds get through the rough patches, they will might want to become donators down the road.

There are two sheds, one at St. Andrews United Church (128 1 St. E) and one at Bow Valley Baptist Church (54 W Aarsby Road). Both are open 24/7, and volunteers help to stock them with new additions overnight.

For anyone looking to donate, Mcdonald says they can go to their website, or donate food that’s unopened and in its original packaging directly into one of the sheds, which have fridges.

Helping Hands is also looking for volunteers to fill many requests for their ‘Summer Do Crew’ (lawn care and light landscaping), and ‘Movers with Heart’ which helps people move who may not have family or friends available to help. Anyone interested can email Melia at [email protected].

Howard May

About the Author: Howard May

Howard was a journalist with the Calgary Herald and with the Abbotsford Times in BC, where he won a BC/Yukon Community Newspaper Association award for best outdoor writing.
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