TRURO – Being a volunteer at the Colchester Food Bank is rewarding, but not always easy.
Truro’s Helen Spence, 70, has been assisting the food bank for about 20 years, all the way back to the days when the facility operated out of the Brunswick Street United Church. For Spence, she had a very personal reason for becoming a volunteer and it’s changed her life.
“I grew up in hard times. I never asked (for help) from the food bank but we grew up poor,” Spence said, adding her father died when she was seven.
“There were 13 children and it was hard … I can understand how hard it is for others.”
Her background created a sense of empathy for others and that understanding, she believes, comforts clients.
“Last week someone came in saying they had to choose between oil or feeding their kids. They struggled to come in … and cried and I cried with them,” Spence said, who typically volunteers 40 hours a week at the facility. “And when someone comes in because they don’t have a diaper for their child, that breaks my heart.”
Spence estimated there are 15 volunteers and said there are many challenges of being a volunteer at a food bank that the general public take for granted. Trying to calm irate clients and occasional fights, attempts to abuse the system and intense emotions are only a few of the unique situations volunteers sometimes face.
“People think you walk in, get an order and leave … but there is so much more that happens than people realize,” Spence said, adding one example of an incident was dealing with someone who attempted to receive extra food by lying about the number of children they have.
“It’s hard to nail everyone who tries to abuse the system … but we have ways to find out and remember them for the next time.”
Onslow’s Steve Works, 37, has been volunteering for about 20 years as well. For him the most difficult part is “seeing single mothers or fathers come in with their child; knowing they can’t get work or can’t make ends meet.”
Both Works and Spence said their experiences at the food bank have also been a blessing that often isn’t seen by the overall community.
“I’m more grateful for what I have and it’s given me a better outlook. And it’s great to see clients who then want to help out,” said Works.
“It’s made me a better person. When you see someone walk away with a smile and relief and know you helped as a team, it’s good,” added Spence.
It’s also good to be aware of the help requested within the community, said Spence.
“They have 11,000 or more files of people served here. I never realized there are that many … we need to know and be willing to help every minute of every day.”
The volunteers said one of the main reasons the food bank runs so well is the “devotion and compassion” by its co-ordinator, Mary DeAdder, and assistant co-ordinator, Darlene Dubreuil.
Upcoming food bank fundraisers will assist with Christmas preparation
By Monique Chiasson
TRURO DAILY NEWS
TRURO – Shelves at the Colchester Food Bank are about half full but upcoming fundraisers are sure to help stock them, says the facility’s assistant co-ordinator.
Darlene Dubreuil told the Truro Daily News on Thursday there are at least three annual fall fundraisers coming up within the next month.
“We need them now because heading into the fall the (client) numbers increase especially because it gets chilly and heat sources increase (in cost),” she said, adding the food bank also begins preparing for Christmas in October.
One fundraiser is Trick or Eat, which is in its fourth year and is in conjunction with a national food bank campaign. The event is throughout the evening of Oct. 31 and includes Dalhousie AC and Nova Scotia Community College students as well as possibly Canada World Youth collecting donations from the community for the food bank.
Another fundraiser, the Big Annual Food Drive, formerly known as the Joy of Giving, takes place Nov. 13 on Commercial Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“More than 66,000 pounds of food was raised last year and if we could match it that would be wonderful,” Dubreuil said.
The Colchester Christian Academy/Peoples Church will also host a food collection at the end of November.
Dubreuil said there were more than 830 clients served at the food bank in September and expects that number to be higher for October.