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Calgary teen looks to make season brighter with food bank donations

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Fourteen-year-old Ella Altvater wants to make a difference this Christmas.

She has saved all her babysitting money through the year, along with her allowance, and used that to purchase items to make "Christmas fun bags."

Every bag, which costs $10, has 14 items like stickers, a pencil and eraser, crafts, book marks, playdough, a light up ring, snap bracelets and a candy cane.

All the money she collects will be given to the Calgary Food Bank.

Altvater began this project a few years ago.

At the time, she researched local charities looking for one that she felt gave her the biggest bang for the buck.

That's when she discovered the Calgary Food Bank.

"It caught my attention, thinking about how many families and individuals struggle with providing for themselves. Giving a big charity like the food bank the money can support them a lot," said Altvater.

"Of course, all charities are important, but this one is really important."

Last year, she donated just over $1,000 to the Calgary Food Bank by selling the gift bags and hopes to achieve that goal again this year.

While she has been working throughout the year earning the money to buy the items for the fun bags, Altvater says the month leading up to Christmas is when it gets really busy.

"I do a lot after school every day. Probably one or two hours a day for the whole month of December," she said.

Altvater's mom, Yvette King, helps with marketing the bags on social media and helps her deliver them to buyers.

"It was very successful a couple of years ago, lots of people supported her, because as she says, 'It takes a community to make a difference, not just one person'," said King.

"This year has been a bit more difficult. This year has been a bit of a slow start. Not surprisingly, because everybody is cutting back a little bit.

"So we're hoping that she can still make her $1,000 donation."

RECORD DEMAND AT THE CALGARY FOOD BANK

Calgary Food Bank CEO Melissa From says 2023 has set a record for demand on its services.

Open six days a week, the agency is distributing more than 650 hampers per day to Calgarians in the throes of food insecurity.

From says it's encouraging to see young people stepping up to help.

"Every week, there are kids coming in there foregoing birthday presents. They're doing food drives with their hockey teams, it just it bodes well for our community and our future when you see that," she said, adding cash donations like those being raised by Altvater help the most.

"The reality is for every dollar that's donated in cash, we can distribute $3.50 in food, because of our amazing corporate partnerships and our purchasing power with industry, so this donation from Ella and all the little donations that we get just go such a long way to helping us out."

Altvater admits she's a bit overwhelmed when thinking of the number of people using the food bank.

"Honestly, it makes me kind of sad, knowing how many people like struggle with just providing for themselves," she said.

"And then it just like makes me feel better knowing that there's a community that's supporting them in getting what they need."

Altvater's fundraising Facebook post can be found here.

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