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ByAbby Green, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterGrimsby Lincoln News

Monday, December 18, 2023

During the time of year when need is at its highest, west Niagara is there to help.

The first fundraiser in honour of Debbie Ecker managed to raise $90,000 for Community Care of West Niagara, with a portion of the proceeds going to other Feed Niagara affiliated food banks.

As the holiday season is often the time of year when most is needed, Carole Fuhrer, Community Care of West Niagara executive director, said the money raised will help significantly.

“The need is increasing, and the depths of people’s circumstances are deeper, and more complex and in some cases dire,” she said.

“So that just means that we need to infuse a few more resources into helping our individuals, and being able to have an infusion of this type of investment allows us to help individuals who are facing rent issues, for example, if they are underemployed and just are not bringing enough money in to meet basic living requirements. It’s also going to help us to leverage more product to give to our clients.”

Serving mainly Lincoln, Community Care of West Niagara has seen an increase in need of 23 to 28 per cent since the start of the pandemic, which translates to helping more than 300 families a month.

Money like this will also put Community Care in a good position moving into 2024, as Fuhrer said donations usually decrease in the first quarter of the year.

“December is an expensive and overwhelming month for pretty much everybody, whether you celebrate or you don’t,” she said. “It’s more expensive for all kinds of reasons, so we have a number of clients or client families that really come December, they need the help to just get through.”

The event, held in partnership with Community Care of West Niagara, was held in honour of Debbie Ecker, who spent many years fundraising for the organization.

“Debbie was a what I would call a quiet and strong community mobilizer,” Fuhrer said. “So, if there was any cause that she believed in, she just had this way of really getting people impassioned and supporting her.”

Ecker’s husband, Michael said his wife’s group, the “Lincoln Ladies,” raised about $6,000 every year for Community Care of West Niagara.

She died from cancer in 2021 and since then Michael made it his mission to start a fundraiser she would have been proud of.

“Before she passed, I let her know that we would be doing this,” he said. “So that way the pressure was on to make sure it got done right.”

Michael, who works at Vineland Growers, was able to use its new facility for the event and invited all of the connections his wife had made over the years.

With 500 people present, there were silent auctions, live auctions, a raffle, entertainment, food trucks and more.

“There was 130 people and companies that donated to the silent auction, the live auction and the raffle,” he said. “We had 30 wineries that donated wine. It was a lot of little parts that came together.”

One of the focal points, Michael said, was a peanut butter Christmas tree featuring only crunchy and smooth peanut butter — so the colours were all red and green.

The tree was made up of 1,000 jars of peanut butter that Michael said were donated by Kraft.

People could buy a jar of peanut butter to put on the tree, with all the peanut butter at the end going back to local Feed Niagara food banks.

Michael said it was a total of $12,000 worth of peanut butter.

Looking back on the event and the fundraisers his wife held prior, he feels proud.

“My wife brought all those people together,” he said. “I think it was, it was just the way she was with her spirit. She was always helping people … so many people that were there and the people that she’s helped over the years and touched … It was an emotional one.”

With a grand total of $90,000 raised, Michael quipped it wasn’t bad for his “first kick at the can,” but looks forward to making it even better next year.