By Chad Ingram
Each Thanksgiving weekend members of the Maple Beech and Cameron Lakes Area Property Owners’ Association (MBC) gather at St. Peter’s Church at Maple Lake and along with congregation members collect food and money that is then dropped off at the Minden Food Bank.
“There’s a lot of goodness” says Charlie O’Connor of the MBC executive seated in the community kitchen at the Minden Community Food Centre on Newcastle Street. “You’ve got the goodness of everybody donating you take that goodness and you bring it down to these people to the food bank here and they’re elated with it because they know how much goodness they can send out into the community.”
This past Thanksgiving MBC brought two truckloads of food to the food bank along with more than $2200. As O’Connor explains the association itself is able to fund-match donations from members up to a total of $1000. MBC’s Thanksgiving food drive a partnership with St. Peter’s Church has been taking place for a few years now.
“It started with the members of MBC wanted to do something for the community and I know that Thanksgiving food drives have been done by other groups” says MBC member Sally Howson. “And it’s a logical thing why take your food back to the city type of thing.”
Howson says it’s been eye-opening for some members of the association how reliant on the food bank many Minden and area residents are. “People not realizing how many children rely on the food bank” she says. “So I think what we’ve been able to do is raise awareness.”
MBC has contributed about $6000 along with truckloads of food to the food bank during the past five years.
It’s common for more than 200 families to be using the Minden Food Bank at any point in time and there are about 225 currently registered.
“Originally the food bank was an emergency food bank” says manager Joanne Barnes. “Now it’s a way of life. Most of our families can barely manage to survive three weeks and the food bank picks up the slack for the next 10 days until their next cheque comes in.”
MBC member Murray Adam speaks highly of the food bank’s volunteers and the time they put it.
“It takes a lot of people to do it [MBC’s food drive] to collect the food and whatnot” Adam says. “But then you come down here and you realize these folks are doing this year-round. It’s not just a weekend thing. They’re here all the time.”
The food bank has 35 to 40 volunteers the community kitchen 14.
Barnes says of her 15 years with the food bank this has been the worst yet and that since September she’s been registering new families on each day the food bank is open including three new families the day she was interviewed. She says as many of 40 per cent of families who use the food bank have members who are employed but have trouble making ends meet by the end of the month. The number of clients increases during the winter months and drops during the summer when more seasonal work is available. Last summer for example 225 families using the food bank dropped to 88.
“All those others got work and didn’t have to come in here” Barnes says.
Then by mid-August numbers start to climb again as seasonal jobs fold up.
When asked how many lake associations make regular contributions to the food bank “There’s two or three” Barnes says. “There’s room to encourage others.”
And that’s what O’Connor would like to do. Not create a competitive atmosphere he notes but to encourage other lake associations to create similar drives and keep the food bank in mind. O’Connor says he’d also like to thank the association’s sponsors who help makes its activities viable.