Five local businesses join forces to feed 1000 Muskoka families this Christmas


How many local families will have a hard time putting Christmas dinner on the table this year? The number might surprise you as it did five local organizations — Hunters Bay Radio (HBR), Bullock’s Independent, Dairy Lane Dental, Dreams Becoming Reality (DBR) Marketing, and Bickley Ford.

They all had a desire to help, but were starting from different places. Paul Rae at DBR brought them together and The Bay Food Crew was born.

Rae heard from Dairy Lane Dental that their staff wanted to feed 25 families this Christmas. Cheered by that news, he mentioned it to Jeff Carter over at Hunters Bay Radio who asked Rae if he wanted to scale that number. Proceeds from the station’s bingo must be put back into the community and Carter already had plans to put it to use feeding local families. With the help of generous donations by Bullock’s Independent, they calculated they could feed 1000 families in need through Muskoka’s food banks.

It was an amazing opportunity and something we wanted to be part of, to provide 1000 meals across all of Muskoka to people that need it. Everyone should have the opportunity to have a nice turkey dinner around the holidays. We were an immediate yes.
Darcy Bullock, who owns Bullock’s Independent with his fiancée Alycia Simmons

Bullock’s is providing the turkeys at cost to HBR, and Darcy and Alycia have also donated the rest of the meal for the cause. In addition to a turkey, each family will receive a box of stuffing, a can of cranberry sauce, a package of gravy, a bag of potatoes, a rutabaga and a butternut squash.

“That’s a lot of people,” said Bullock. “It was pretty shocking (to hear the need) and we’re excited to be able to help.” The store also has donation bins for both the Salvation Army and The Table food banks, and they’ll be looking for ways to encourage shoppers to contribute in the coming weeks.

Despite the staggering number, the need is even higher, said Rae, who noted that there are 1,152 families who have registered to receive Christmas dinner via Muskoka’s food banks, but 152 of them don’t have the facilities at home to be able to cook it. “I thought, ‘there’s 1,152 and these are the ones who are stepping up and going to food banks and saying they don’t have food for Christmas. So how many out there have too much pride and aren’t saying anything?'”

The next stop Rae made was to enlist Bickley Ford to provide trucks and manpower to deliver all that food to the seven food banks: Huntsville Salvation Army Food Bank (270 families), The Table Food Bank in Huntsville (106 families), Baysville Food Pantry (20 families), Burk’s Falls Food Bank (44 families), Manna Food Bank in Bracebridge (140 families), Bracebridge Salvation Army (220 families), and Gravenhurst Salvation Army (200 families). He and his wife and business partner, Johanne Rae Stewart, will be there for every delivery, too.

Because there are enough bingo funds from HBR and food donations from Bullock’s to execute the plan, the group decided to put the money Dairy Lane Dental had planned to spend into a fund to help restock the shelves at the food banks. And that’s how the public and other local businesses can get involved, too, said Rae.

The food banks can purchase product at a much lower cost than the average consumer can, Rae pointed out. While food donations during the holidays and beyond are important, too, the food banks can make cash donations go farther with their buying power.

Everybody gives, gives, gives through the holidays, and the shelves are full, and everyone gets a meal. The momentum drops off almost immediately…but all those facilities are open 12 months of the year. If they had more funds to purchase more goods, they’d be in a better spot.
Paul Rae, Dreams Becoming Reality Marketing

Rae said whatever money is donated to The Bay Food Crew will be distributed among the food banks. Donations can be made via Hunters Bay Radio, or you can donate directly to your local food bank.

“This is just the grass roots beginning of this,” said Rae. “We are going to do other initiatives for people who are hungry… and if five organizations can pool their resources and feed 1000 families, can’t this be duplicated in other communities?”

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