Community Spotlight

Edgar Burton food drive marks milestone

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star

Owen Marcotte met Edgar Burton in 2006, when both worked at Vale’s Divisional Shops. Even then, Marcotte was impressed by Burton’s work ethic.

He didn’t know the half of it.

Burton seemed to disappear for eight weeks late in the year, and when Marcotte wondered where his co-worker had gone, he was told Burton was taking time to run a Christmas food drive for the Sudbury Food Bank.

“I really did think, ‘Wow, cool, this guy gets to leave work and do a food drive. He’s so lucky,’ ” Marcotte said with a laugh. “Who doesn’t want to help people, right?”

It was time off, but certainly no vacation for Burton. He spent 23 years and countless hours building the campaign that now bears his name, before he died in 2010.

This year, Marcotte was asked to serve as co-chair of the food drive as Burton had, and he finally found out just what an undertaking it was.

“I knew it was a lot of work, but taking on the task and doing it, you realize the guy put way more effort in than anyone could ever realize,” Marcotte said.
“It definitely didn’t show. The guy was very humble and he took it as his duty. He always had a goal and he wasn’t going to stop until he achieved it.”

Marcotte joined Sudbury Food Bank President Mellaney Dahl, executive director Dan Xilon, fellow committee members and volunteers to wrap up another Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive on Wednesday, and to mark a milestone in the drive’s 29-year history – 1,000 tons of donated food.

“People need to eat all the time,” Dahl said. “It doesn’t stop after one day or two days or one month, so this is a huge part of the year for the Sudbury Food Bank.”

Despite a slow start in terms of donations, the food drive was expected to collect more than 100 tons of food again this year to pass the 1,000-ton mark.
The food drive continues to be one of the largest in Canada per capita, with more than 350 businesses and 35 schools taking part each year. It’s a major factor in the Sudbury Food Bank’s ability to serve 16,000 people each month, more than half of them children.

The food bank was a busy place on Wednesday. Volunteers busily unpacked and sorted food while members of the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada dropped off donations they picked up across the city.

Fifteen soldiers and six vehicles collected food from 434 locations in two days, according to Sgt. Mike Young.

“It’s a ton of work,” Young said. “It’s not easy moving 90 tons of food around town, that’s for sure. This is my first year co-ordinating the collections bit, so a big thank-you to my drivers and helpers over there, the soldiers from the 2nd Irish. Next year, one more can, one more ton, whatever it is, just call us and we’ll move it for you.”

Before he died, Burton also launched the Kids Helping Kids campaign, to engage students and teach them the importance of giving back to the community.

Kerri Monaghan, principal at Carl A. Nesbitt and Ernie Checkeris public schools, also serves as lead for the Kids Helping Kids campaign.

“I think the important part for us as educators, for all of our parents out there, we need to realize the power of our kids, just like Edgar did,” Monaghan said. “He had three beautiful daughters come up to him and say, ‘Hey, we need to feed the kids at my school and their families,’ and he did it. That’s my job, to let kids know, ‘Hey, what are your ideas, let’s run with it, let’s do it,’ and our kids did that this year.”

Community support from young and old made a profound impact on Marcotte and left no doubt in his mind he’ll be back to help again next year.

“You want to put the time in and help people and there’s just never enough time, because you’re just trying to get things done at home,” Marcotte said. “Having the opportunity to do this, it was like years and years of wishing you could do more happened all at once. It’s not me doing the whole thing. I’m helping, I’m a small part of a big picture, but I got to spend two months helping thousands of people and it’s a good feeling.”

Visit the Sudbury Food Bank online at www.sudburyfoodbank.ca.

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