Sharon Burton found herself speechless Dec. 20 when it came to how she feels about the success of the 25th annual Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive.
More than 400 Sudbury area businesses and 40-plus schools, as well as countless others, joined forces to collect 100 tonnes of food, a new record in the food drive's 25-year history. Last year, the food drive brought in 88 tonnes of food.
It wasn't that Sharon Burton didn't want to thank all those who continue to carry on her husband's legacy year after year, it was just that she had a difficult time putting into words just how much it means to her.
“Wow, I'm lost for words,” she said after the total was announced at the Sudbury Food Bank. “It feels so great to help people, and my husband's dream is to be on the national news, and we're working on it.”
Sudbury Food Bank chair Geoffrey Lougheed called it a “monumental moment” for Sudbury.
“We have the biggest per-capita food drive campaign in Canada, and that's due to our friend, Edgar Burton and his family, and the wonderful spirit of generosity we have in this community. We're really blessed with a caring community,” he said.
Food bank use is up across the province, and there are about 15,000 people in Sudbury alone who access one of 45 food providers supplied by the Sudbury Food Bank, Lougheed said. About 40 per cent of those users are children.
“Edgar's point was a simple one, that no one should go hungry. What a simple premise, and that's the reason you see the success we have achieved here today. A very simple, good idea has caught on in this community” Lougheed said.
Edgar Burton was a Vale Divisional Shops employee for 36 years. He started the food drive after his daughters asked him if they could start collecting food for the less fortunate. He founded the Business Employees Food Drive at Vale and ran it for 22 years.
He died July 9, 2010 at the age of 56, but not before he organized more than 280 businesses, employees and unions, and 24 schools in his last food drive effort in December 2009. That year, he spearheaded the collection of 50 tonnes of food out of the 312 tonnes collected by the food bank.
“Edgar Burton was a kind and generous individual that represents the very best qualities in our employees and our community,” said Kelly Strong, vice-president, Canada and UK Operations, Vale. “Vale is proud to continue the legacy of the food drive he began at Divisional Shops 25 years ago.”
The Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive has collected more than 752 tons in the last 25 years. The food drive’s goal this year, as it always was for Edgar Burton, was to collect “one more can” than last year – his now-famous motto.
“We've got 100 tonnes of food, but we're not done,” Sharon Burton said. “We're going to keep climbing and going and going.”
“For 25 years, Edgar and his family started a legacy that touched the lives of many Sudburians,” said United Steelworkers, Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand, who presented a $5,000 cheque to the campaign during its wrap-up. “His generosity and compassion to feed our less fortunate is an inspiration to everyone in our community.”
”Just like Edgar Burton himself, the annual food drive he started is a shining example of the spirit and generosity of our community,” said Mayor Marianne Matichuk. “I thank all Greater Sudburians who gave to this valuable cause. Together, we are caring and making our community stronger.”