GIVING BACK. The Soldiers Helping Soldiers' potato program has wrapped up for their second year, and organizers said they were able to collect 680 pounds of potatoes.
© (Photo Provided)
(Left to right) Councillor Stephen Blais, Annick Dostaler, Sergeant Roxazen Noseworthy, Captain Victoria Ryan, Dannelle Gauthier, and Councillor Bob Monette.
Dannelle Gauthier, coordinator for the project, said they are happy with their final number but already know for next year that they need to put the fundraiser out to the public earlier.
In 2015, the program ran a pilot year with The Little School Day Care Centre in Orléans, so this was the first year it was put out to the rest of the public.
"It's great, we have all this input and we’ve been through it once, so we know we can start earlier next year and reach out to more people," said Gauthier. "I do anticipate a much better season next year."
Gauthier said next year they are planning to reach out to high schools, as many students can use growing potatoes towards their community hours.
"We're also going to target community gardens and farmers."
On Sept. 17, a booth was set up on Centrum Blvd. to accept any final donations as the project wrapped up on Sept. 18.
The project received a major donation, of 160 pounds of potatoes, from the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Cumberland.
Iman Imtiaz Ahmed said he was informed about the potato program through Cumberland Councillor Stephen Blais.
"I wanted to be part of this and of course the community wanted to be part of this," said Ahmed. "But I can tell you, I tried to grow potatoes, I tried my best, I call myself a YouTube farmer, but I failed miserably unfortunately."
Ahmed said even though growing their own potatoes didn't work out, they still wanted to contribute.
"We [the mosque] bought 16 bags of potatoes to donate. We're hoping that the next year we can plan in advance and hopefully be able to donate much more than this one."
Ahmed said this was a great initiative, especially since we have many members of the community who served with the armed forces.
Soldiers Helping Soldiers is a volunteer initiative that helps homeless veterans and veterans or serving members on a trajectory to be homeless.
Gauthier said her and Cpt. Victoria Ryan, who thought of the potato program, will be doing an after action report on how the second year went for the program. From there, they will figure out their goals for the next season of growing.