By Jacob Pandolfi
This holiday season, hundreds of families in the Niagara Falls area will look to Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry to help make their seasonal gatherings joyous. Heart, Love and Soul has serviced the Niagara Falls region for more than 30 years. Volunteers and donations usually flood through the doors during the holiday season, but this year has proven to be more challenging than before.
So far, 370 families have signed up to receive a Thanksgiving dinner package, with many more on a waiting list. The distribution will take place Nov. 20 at 939 Ontario Ave., giving the families time to prepare the meal before Nov. 26.
Thanksgiving essentials are still needed.
"We need more turkeys," Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry Assistant Director Michael Daloia said. "As of right now, we have only three turkeys."
Daloia suspects the avian flu has caused a rise in turkey prices, causing the shortage of turkey donations.
The food pantry also needs manpower Dec. 19. Two major projects, packing Christmas boxes and setting up the Christmas clothing project, are scheduled for that day. Students will be leaving for Christmas break and the normal volunteer core will be shorthanded, Daloia explained.
"The tasks may be labor-intensive," Daloia said. "But they are a necessary task to help bring good cheer to our neighbors."
During Christmas 2014, Heart, Love and Soul serviced 302 families and distributed toys to 338 children. They are expected to service a similar number this Christmas.
Heart, Love and Soul is always looking for donations of food, clothes and toys during the holiday season. To ensure every family receives proper support, agencies in the area have worked closely together to compile a database of everyone who has been serviced. This helps agencies identify individuals who go from pantry to pantry, collecting the same items, which takes away from others.
For more information, call 716-282-5687 or visit www.heartloveandsoul.org.