Parking fines fill tables at Christmas

Harvey Rafter’s got a thankless job. His unwelcome handiwork is often seen flapping on windshields around town.

Harvey Rafter’s got a thankless job.

His unwelcome handiwork is often seen flapping on windshields around town.

But, for two weeks near Christmas, things change for the meter man.

He gets to help the needy.

Tickets Rafter issued from November 27th through December 9th could have been paid for with food bank donations.

It’s the second year Whitehorse has run its Food for Fines program, and a mountain of cans filled the counter and spilled onto the floor at the city animal shelter on Thursday.

“There would have been more food if the weather hadn’t been so cold for one of those weeks,” said senior bylaw constable David Pruden.

He was packing towers of cans, cereal, cake and bread mix, tuna and noodles into milk crates, helping to divvy it all up between Maryhouse, the Salvation Army and Kaushee’s Place.

“There’s a lot of hype around the beauty and magic of Christmas,” said Kaushee’s assistant director Anne-Louise Genest, who was there to pick up food.

“But in reality, Christmas is a really hard time for a lot of people.

“And it might still be hard, but this makes it a little bit easier to get through.”

The city also donated two weeks of parking-fine proceeds to the cause this year, issuing the three organizations a cheque for $827.

“This makes a huge difference,” said Salvation Army Captain Robert Sessford, as his crew slid milk crates into a Sally Ann cube van.

“It’s not just the food and money — it increases the publics’ awareness and gives them a chance to contribute.

“It helps people care for each other.”

Bylaw manager John Taylor stole the Food for Fines idea from BC, he said.

“I introduced it to council last year and it was very successful,” said Taylor.

“So we kept it going.”

And it really sparks the spirit of giving.

Taylor had one woman come in with a bunch of food and a two-hour parking ticket worth $25.

However, because it wasn’t a meter ticket, she couldn’t pay it with food.

“But she gave us all the food anyway and the $25,” said Taylor.

People are so generous, said Maryhouse worker Christine Herlihy.

“Someone made an anonymous monetary donation yesterday morning,” she said.

“And they wanted it to go to someone who was less fortunate. So in the afternoon somebody came with a need, and we used that money.

“It just kind of comes in and goes out — it’s great.”

Maryhouse’s food bank serves 200 people a month and has already given out 20 turkeys.

“And we’ll be giving out lots more,” said Herlihy, who hopes to reach those who might not qualify for the Salvation Army’s turkey hampers.

“There’s some people who would not qualify for their list,” she said.

“Including a lot of single people and some families who didn’t put their name down.

“You know, it’s very difficult for some people who are dealing with poverty and other issues to get it together to get their name on a list.”

The Sally Ann does its best to accommodate everyone, but Maryhouse is another option, she said.

The Salvation Army is giving out 200 turkey hampers with all the fixings this year, said Sessford.

“And it really makes a difference to people who receive a hamper,” he said.

“When they walk down the street in Whitehorse, they know the whole world’s not against them — that the people they’re walking past have contributed to helping them and their children.”

The cold fall made it hard for people, said Sessford.

High heating bills cut into savings, and after Christmas many people with part-time jobs get laid off, he said.

At Christmas, food banks are important for people struggling with low-end jobs.

“But the need is ever-present,” he said.

People just don’t know what they’re going to do, especially at Christmas, said Herlihy, who’s been giving out turkeys and hugs for the past six years.

“I know a lot of the people who come to us regularly, they’re friends of ours,” said Herlihy.

“They’re people we want to help — they’re not just a number out there.

“So those stories that they tell us, you know, its very humbling for me. For someone to say, ‘You’ve made our Christmas,’ that’s pretty humbling.”