By Sue Tiffin
Throughout the pandemic, the Minden Community Food Centre has seen a greater need for the services it offers, while the team that keeps it going has tried to safely maneuver through provincial restrictions and public health measures. Volunteers have stayed healthy, the Christmas hamper program in a new drive-through format was still able to happen – last year 172 hampers were distributed – and the Food Centre stayed open to help more than 225 registered families despite managing over these past two years with a smaller team of 10 rather than 45 volunteers.
Now, the longtime community helpers who fill the manager and assistant manager role are retiring.
Joanne Barnes has been the manager at the Food Centre for 18 years. Joanne didn’t just take a job and mindlessly clock in and out each day. She put time – countless hours – and energy into looking at how she could make something benefitting the community even better, more efficient, more organized and more comprehensive. She’s long tried to share the realities of what food insecurity looks like for residents in this county and has advocated behind the scenes for individuals when they’ve needed help. She hasn’t stopped, not through cancer treatment years ago, not through those first trying weeks of the pandemic, even doing the literal heavy lifting when required. She won’t fully stop, either, continuing to manage the Fuel for Warmth organization to ensure everyone has a source of heat throughout the winter.
For her efforts, she’s been applauded and awarded throughout the years, but the stories she focuses on are from those who simply said “thank you,” who she knows she was able to help in some way.
Kim Russell couldn’t bear to think about kids being hungry and wanted to help so she signed up to volunteer about 14 years ago. When people showed up at the door in need, Kim’s first response over the years was to offer them a hug – a gesture that likely made all the difference for people in the vulnerable position of needing to ask for support. She went from volunteering one day a week, to working two days a week at the Food Centre and was approached by many people over the years feeling desperate with tears in their eyes who went home with renewed hope because of her nurturing care and compassion.
The Minden Community Food Centre (previously known as the Minden Food Bank) has been in existence for more than three decades now. Through former and current staff and volunteers, it offers more than what most people think of when they think of a food bank – that’s why it’s now called a Food Centre. The community kitchen can be used to make meals for people struggling after a spouse passes away, and to teach kids how to make a healthy meal. Medical equipment is available through a loaning library, clean used clothing is available for free, a match program helps connect people with furniture after fleeing their homes due to violence or fires, and supplies are sourced for school-aged children so they can attend school comfortably. Our Food Centre, unlike many food banks, offers meat, dairy and perishable products as a small distribution hub, ensuring people can eat healthy, quality meals to keep them going.
It takes a big team of people to organize and keep that running, and for the past many years, Joanne and Kim have been leading that team of hard-working and caring volunteers.
Thank you to both for their dedication, for being stewards of the Minden Community Food Centre and for advocating for friends, family and neighbours in our community to ensure fewer people in Haliburton County have gone to bed hungry over the years.
A very warm welcome, too, to Jean Munroe and Victoria Lawson, who have stepped up to fill the leadership roles and are looking to do good and support this community.