by Frank Bucholtz, Mission Record
After years of planning, a standalone facility for the long-established St. Joseph’s Food Bank will officially open Saturday.
For Ron Leger, the volunteer who has championed the project, this has been a long time coming. However, he feels the end product is even better than he could have expected, and says it will serve the community well for many years to come.
Leger, a local accountant, has been living and breathing the building for a long time. He has been involved with the food bank since 1996, a few years after it first started serving people in Mission, in 1990.
As far back as 2009, he was able to get permission from the Catholic archbishop of the Vancouver diocese to build a standalone building on church property. The food bank has been operating from the church facility. In 2011, he was able to get a building permit, and then the work of building the project and finding enough funds was truly underway.
Leger, who worked in a grocery store as a teen and young adult, wanted a building designed something like a store. The top floor has an entrance for clients, and a counter where they can be served. It is open and spacious. There are washrooms and office space.
The bottom floor has a loading dock (with a driveway extension), lots of storage room, and will soon have a large cooler and a lift to transport food items to the upper floor.
St. Joseph’s Food Bank is a member of the B.C. Food Bank Association and Food Banks Canada. It is open twice a month to distribute food to clients. The service is totally volunteer-operated. In 2014, 4,376 people were helped with the gift of food. Of those, 2,936 were adults, 1,415 children and there were 25 infants.
The total worth of food distributed that year was $528,750.
Food bank manager Cully Poston said the food bank has about 50 volunteers, “and the average age is 72.”
They hand out donations on the first and third Thursdays of each month, but it takes two full days before each distribution date to get the food ready. They also have volunteers who pick up donations from stores and individuals.
“The food bank is something society requires today,” Poston says. “I wish it didn’t, but there are so many working poor today who need food. The new building will make it much easier for us, as we will no longer have to set up and take down (in the church basement).”
Leger says about one-third of the total cost of about $500,000 for the new building came as a result of donated labour and materials, with a great deal of help coming from several contracting companies. All the rest came from money donated to the project.
“I don’t think it would have happened without all those donations,” he says.
He said he was grateful to The Record and for letting people know about the project, and particularly to The Record’s Kevin Plastow, who created the logo for the food bank.
Opening ceremonies for the building, located on a corner of the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church property at 32550 Seventh Ave., take place at 11 a.m.
The community is invited to attend. Taking part in the opening ceremonies will be Most Rev. Michael Miller, archbishop of Vancouver, and Mission Mayor Randy Hawes.