Food bank bustling hub for donations
By Sue Tiffin
Published May 18, 2017
Despite rain, the Minden Food Bank and Community Centre was a bustling place on May 13.
Marilynne Lesperance, chairwoman of the Minden Food Bank board, was bustling, too, accepting donations from local service club members and seasonal residents and tourists dropping in on their way through town.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said, in between meetings. “It’s coming from near and far and away.”
Lesperance said it didn’t take long after flooding began in Minden at the beginning of May and a state of emergency was called on May 6 before donations themselves began flooding through the doors of the food bank on Newcastle Street. Large contributions from Tim Horton’s, Hydro One, Canadian Tire, the Minden Legion and both local drugstores, Highland Pharmacy Remedy’s RX and Pharmasave were accepted by Lesperance, who said every bit helps.
“I am tired, but the volunteers keep me going,” she said. “They are incredible and just keep going for hours at a time.”
Lesperance and food bank volunteers sprang into action when flooding began, organizing incoming donations as well as free daily and nightly community dinners intended to bring flood victims, volunteers and other residents together. Hot meals have been provided at the arena and at the Community Kitchen in the Food Bank building to give families and volunteers a break from the anxiety of keeping flood waters back from buildings. At most meals, anywhere from 30 to 65 people have attended, many wearing hip waders and swim wear. Lesperance said donations coming in help to replenish stock and pay bills for additional food bank costs during the town’s crisis.
“The dinners are open to everyone, not just flood victims,” said Lesperance. “We have found that people want to talk and socialize after dinner because lots of them are pretty isolated right now. Most of them take meals to their neighbours, who are housebound.”
The food bank doesn’t expect donations from the dinners.
“It is our way of giving back to the community that supports us all year long, year after year,” said Lesperance.”
Giving back was on the minds of people from out of town, too. News reports on CTV, CHEX, CBC and CityTV as well as Facebook updates attracted help from seasonal residents and tourists.
A convoy of Jeeps from the Lake Simcoe 4 x 4 Club pulled into Minden, pulling three large trailers full of food, water and toiletries collected from the Barrie area.
“We wanted to do something during the last flood,” said Kent Bond, a Newmarket resident who cottages on Bob Lake. “I’ve been coming here my entire life. I wanted to see how I could help.”
Bond presented Lesperance with $1,100 of donation money collected over just a few days.
“It’s so incredible that you’ve come this far to help us,” said Lesperance. “What you’ve done is so awesome. It will make a huge difference.”
Club members noted they visit the area recreationally or had family living nearby and wanted to give back.
“Most of us have all been up here, having fun,” said Aaron Kalabic.
After unloading the donations, Lesperance asked the club if they could deliver meals to residents affected by flooding who couldn’t get out, or who were on vigilant sump pump watch. The club didn’t hesitate to volunteer, ensuring their vehicles, some equipped with off-road snorkels, didn’t cause wake in flooded areas.
“They can get there,” said Lesperance. “Who else can get there?”
On that busy Saturday afternoon, Geoff Carruthers, a Hamilton resident with a cottage in the Hunter Creek area, said he saw what was happening on the news and stopped in at the food bank before going to the cottage. Carruthers is vice-president of sales for Acosta, a packaged goods sales and marketing company. He and wife Liane unloaded $500 worth of canned Bush Beans into the food bank.
Walking up alongside the Carruthers vehicle was Colleen Mewha, president of the Minden Lions Club. Mewha had been volunteering alongside other Lions Club members in the food kitchen to provide meals to displaced residents. The club had learned just days before they were the recipients of a $10,000 grant for disaster relief from Lions Clubs International Foundation, which they were excited to bring to the community in the form of food, toiletries, water, towels and bedding.
“We’re trying to do what we can,” said Mewha. “This isn’t just a community. This is family.”
Lesperance said the food bank is stocked with toiletries, toothbrushes and bedding. The greatest need now is for frozen and fresh vegetables, and also an industrial meat slicer.
Dinners continue at the Community Kitchen in the food bank at 5:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome, and there is no charge.