YWCA NWT has launched its annual Holiday Family Sponsorship Program, with a sign-up deadline of Dec. 3 for people who wish to help community members in need.
“A lot of families in our emergency and transitional housing program are really feeling the financial strain this year from the pandemic, finding that it’s increasingly difficult to even meet their basic need — so having to make choices between paying the light bill, paying the rent, being able to afford to get their kids school supplies, that sort of thing,” said Alayna Ward, the local YWCA’s director of community relations.
Food security has been an increasingly common concern among those turning to the YWCA NWT.
“We’re seeing more clients — like an unprecedented number of clients — who are coming to us for assistance with food and being able to feed their families,” said Ward.
There are more than 100 families on the list for YWCA assistance for this year, equating to 221 children.
“So you can see there’s a really huge need, and that’s just the families that are involved in the YWCA housing program,” Ward said.
The sponsorship program has been running for close to a decade, becoming a significant part of the organization’s operations after one its Rockhill facility burned down in 2018.
“We did used to have a large transitional housing facility, like an apartment building, a 33-unit one,” said Ward. “It was close to downtown Yellowknife.”
Summit Air used to provide toys for all the children living in that building.
Since that point, the sponsorship program has been growing, with the number of families that YWCA NWT serves growing alongside it.
“We’ve always had a pretty great response,” said Ward. “The community is very supportive of the (YWCA) and really want to show families that they’re supportive. So yeah, we’re basically just hoping that we’ll have that same type of great response.”
The organization has drafted gift guidelines to give donors ideas of how their contributions could be used.
“You know, this is what we suggest, like $100, for example, to spend on gifts, and then $50 a person for food. It gives sponsors kind of an idea of, okay, I’m a single person, or a couple, or an organization of 10 people, and this is our budget.”
For larger families, some organizations or workplaces provide a matching amount to help support them.
The sign-up deadline of Dec. 3 was chosen for “planning purposes.”
“That just gives families a little bit of direction and flexibility to know kind of what they may need to buy for the season,” said Ward.
There’a also supply chain issues that have made it more challenging to obtain certain items.
“We’re seeing that there’s shortages of certain toys or things,” said Ward. “So we have had people, even back in early October, people were contacting us because they’re like, ‘We want to order toys and we’d love to sponsor a family.’ So we thought, hey, let people do it earlier, because they wanted to do that and then they won’t have to worry about any kind of shipping delays or lack of things that they want to get.”