Renee Sanderson has always been involved in giving back to her community. This has manifested in many ways for Sanderson, but for the past seven years she has been running Pay It Forward NWT.
After taking a break to focus on her own family, Sanderson is back at helping the community with a new initiative to distribute harvested meat.
As she started to get back into fundraising and took to social media to try and crowd source help for these families and came up with a new way to help those in need this fall.
“So I am talking to my brother who is a hunter and we figured he could go harvest from the land so they can make hamburger or whatever because meat can be some of the most expensive items to purchase,” said Sanderson.
“Now I’m just reaching out to different businesses in Yellowknife and in the North to see if they can donate something so we can create a fundraiser where donated goods can be auctioned off.”
Sanderson says the money raised will go toward butchering the harvested animals her brother hunts and once the meat has been portioned it will be distributed to families in need.
She says she is in contact with some families in need but those who need a bit of assistance can contact the Facebook group. She said personal information is kept confidential.
Sanderson is from the small and remote community of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., and says the desire to help others was instilled in her at a young age.
“We were always raised to give back to the community,” said Sanderson. “Sitting around the dinner table my dad would always ask ‘what did you do today to help someone out,’ so it was in our minds from a young age.”
This grassroots community effort has previously provided meals and supplies to many homeless individuals and low income families through a variety of campaigns.
“The first one we started was called Christmas in July,” said Sanderson.
“We would fundraise for that and give out backpacks to the homeless and it would be filled with toiletries, new socks. Through the years we expanded and had clothing, they could come and pick out new shoes or pants, jackets, whatever they needed.”
Pay It Forward NWT was also responsible for the Stop the Freeze campaign, giving out warm clothing in October and November. The group also staged the Birthday in a Bag campaign where they would take everything you would need for a birthday party in a bag and give that to families in need.
All of the fundraising efforts eventually got to be too much for Sanderson, who was saddling the brunt of the responsibilities for years
“It got to the point where, and I have two boys with special needs, and I couldn’t balance it with my family and the fundraisers took over my life,” said Sanderson.
“A lot of times it got too consuming. Towards the end we were looking for storage and at one point it was taking over three rooms in my house.
“Fundraising was also starting to dwindle. I helped in anyway I could think of then I started using my own money and just realized I couldn’t keep this up.”
Sanderson tried to get more volunteers involved and committed to establish a committee and to register as a non-profit, but to support was not there and fundraising “slowed to a trickle”
“People said there were able to contribute time but it ended up being too much of a commitment,” said Sanderson. “It just kind of fell apart.”
Last year Sanderson decided I just needed to walk away and take a break, but she found herself very embedded in the community as a volunteer and people in need kept getting a hold of her asking for assistance.