Located in the basement of St. David’s Anglican Church, the Castlegar Community Harvest Food Bank is a place for people to eat, enjoy good company and seek help when times are tough, and that’s exactly what people were doing there on Friday.
A good number of people sat around the two long tables, drinking coffee, tea or orange juice, chatting and waiting for a turkey lunch to be served.
Deb McIntosh, food bank director, was on hand, accepting donations and talking with people.
The food bank distributed 245 Christmas hampers in 2015 and now that the holiday season is over, she’s had a chance to take stock of where the food bank is financially.
“So with the money raised now, once we cover our bill for the perishables and stuff we bought for the Christmas hampers, that money then will move forward to cover us hopefully until about August/September,” said McIntosh. “I believe today’s bank balance is about $55,000 and we need about $5,000 a month to operate.”
Though current funds could see the food bank through as far as August or September, McIntosh is more comfortable saying June, since there are additional expenses that can come up for the food bank, like helping people with disconnections.
“It’s on a case to case basis. We don’t help everyone…. You’ve got to jump through the hoops for it, you’ve got to try all the government agencies. We have to be your last resort,” McIntosh explained.
The food bank sometimes also helps people with making rent or buying dentures and glasses.
The organization’s regular expenses include food and rent for the shelter. St. David’s generously contributes the use of its basement.
The food bank also relies on the generous contributions of volunteers. Many of those who were there on Friday have helped out to keep the food bank running.
Donna Andrews has been volunteering at the food bank for about a year and prepared Friday’s lunch. She prepares about two meals a week with her husband Derek.
“It’s a great place,” Andrews said of the food bank. “Everybody does what they can and it’s all volunteer. We just all chip in what we can for the community.”
“When volunteers step up to the plate, it allows us to go out and do the fundraising,” said McIntosh, “and this place still operates like clockwork with these guys looking after it.”
“It’s really great that they have this,” said Joan Hall, who regularly donates to the food bank and volunteers one or twice a year.
Hall said she often comes to the food bank just to share a meal with friends.
Many who attended Friday’s lunch were very touched by the community’s generosity over the holidays. Local industries, residents, businesses, unions and schools, all provided great support.
“Kinnaird School, Twin Rivers, Robson — all of the little schools — Stanley Humphries, they all pulled together and they did drives from September on, different things, and that resulted in truck loads of food. Like it was amazing, it really was, how it all added up,” said McIntosh. “It was really quite something to see and they’ve done that for years now, and it’s so appreciated by everyone that comes here.”
McIntosh said facing a shortage of funds at the end of 2015 was a good reminder that the food bank can’t get complacent and needs to keep up fundraising efforts year round.
The kindness meters that were introduced this fall have so far raised over $2000 and will continue to be a big part of the food bank’s fundraising. There’s also another Coins for Change event planned for 2016, which last year raised just over $8000.
McIntosh said they’ll also work on raising awareness in the spring.
“April/May we’ll look at maybe joining in on somebody else’s event and maybe doing some awareness programming, you know just getting out there and letting us be known again,” she said.