by Neil Corbett
An effort has begun to build a new food bank in Mission.
St. Joseph’s Church has operated a food bank out of the basement of the Seventh Avenue church for about 15 years, but demand has grown to the point where the food bank needs a free standing building of its own.
Mission accountant Ron Leger has taken on the project on behalf of St. Joseph’s. On June 7 he received the building permit from the municipality. Now he is undertaking a fundraising campaign for $250,000.
Leger said it won’t all come in big cheques. He is also asking local businesses and tradesmen to supply in-kind donations of materials and/or lumber.
Leger said he got involved because the food bank is such a worthwhile operation. It costs about $2,000 per month to operate thanks to the many volunteers who make it work, but distributes about $50,000 worth of food.
“So already, for every dollar donated, there’s $25 going to poor people,” he calculates.
“It’s almost like fishes and loaves,” he said, referring to the Biblical story.
He hopes the food bank will be even better able to serve the needy in the community out of its new location, which will be a two-storey building, designed to look like a small church, with 1,860 square feet on each floor.
The new building will have an overhang in the front, to shelter the crowds that form.
“People start lining up at four in the morning for this food bank that opens at 9 a.m.,” said Leger.
There will be a loading dock with a pallet jack and a conveyer belt system to move the food indoors, where it is sorted. That will make life a lot easier for the food bank workers.
“Right now, you’ve got a lot of elderly volunteers hand-bombing these goods,” said Leger.
There will be a pickup area with shelving that will also make pickup faster for food bank patrons.
Food bank coordinator Patrick Carey said it started “very small and very simple,” with about 30 clients per month.
These days, they serve ten times that number. They are open two days a month for distribution, but volunteers are there working seven days a week to prepare for those days.
“This will make a great difference to us – it will make life a lot easier,” said Carey.
It is a big project for a bunch of volunteers to pull off.
“For me, it’s the biggest charity I’ve ever done, but I’m optimistic we’re going to do okay,” said Leger.
Already he has received some help. Mainland Sand and Gravel, for example, has donated $9,000 worth of material. He said the St. Joseph’s food bank is an easy project for people to get behind. Donors are generally eager to get behind the volunteers.
“They’re doing the right thing. They’re helping people in need, and the people there have such big hearts.”