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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Drop-in event Saturday collects items to welcome seasonal farmworkers to NOTL
Kevin Brown is the first season worker to receive a welcome bag this year. He's been coming from Jamaica to work at Neufeld Farms since 2019. Supplied

This year, seasonal farmworker advocate Kit Andres is celebrating their birthday in a different way — by holding a drive-up mutual aid event. 

From 3 to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Andres invites the community to drive up to Applewood Hollow Bed and Breakfast at 2230 Four Mile Creek Rd. and help NOTL’s seasonal migrant workers by contributing items to the welcome kits Niagara Workers Welcome puts together every year for seasonal farmworkers.

Niagara Workers Welcome organizes picnics, welcome kits and clothing drives to show their appreciation for seasonal farm workers.

Andres hopes to gather enough supplies to put together 37 welcome bags. 

So far, about 20 workers have arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake to begin working — come spring time, that number will be in the thousands. 

The first worker to receive a welcome bag this year was Kevin Brown from Jamaica, who has been coming to work at Neufeld Farms since 2019. The welcome kit was donated by Elaine Nixon.

Kit’s mother Jane Andres has been putting together welcome kits with Niagara Workers Welcome for more than five years. 

Along with some volunteers, Jane Andres fills the bags with necessities, and some goodies, for the workers to enjoy while they settle in.

Workers arrive between January and June and are often here until about Dec. 15, with the busiest months being April and May. 

“We normally try to provide bags to the first 500 Caribbean farm workers but last year we did close to 720 because of the great response by the community,” Jane Andres said in an email to The Lake Report.

By doing a mutual aid event, Kit Andres says it’s an easy and simple way for the community to connect with workers.

“It’s something (for migrant workers) to look forward to every year when they arrive knowing that, ‘I have people here who are looking out for me,’ ” said Kit. 

Some of the items residents can drop off are — toothbrushes, hot chocolate, toothpaste, toilet paper, hand lotion, adhesive bandages, travel sewing kits, nail clippers, wash cloths, hand towels, travel-sized pain relief, Emergen-C packets, soup pouches, instant oatmeal, tea bags, hot cocoa and granola bars. 

People are invited to drop off items and enjoy a cup of hot cider or cocoa. 

“As neighbours, we can take care of each other in so many ways. And when we do that, it helps build a healthier, safer community for everybody,” said Kit Andres.

Anyone wanting to fill their own welcome kit can pick up a bag at Applewood Hollow Bed and Breakfast or Sweets & Swirls Cafe at the NOTL Community Centre.

The kits can also be dropped off at both locations.

The bags can also be delivered to the Farmworkers Hub at 1570 Niagara Stone Rd. in Virgil on the morning of March 14.

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