Three days a week, virtually every week of the year, volunteers at the Cranbrook Food Bank work diligently to make sure that food hampers are available for those in the community who need a helping hand.
Drivers pick up donated food all over the community: pizza, groceries, baked goods, wild meat and more.
Inside the house on 8th Avenue that is the Food Bank’s headquarters, volunteers divide food into portions, wash vegetables, and package hampers to order.
In the front office, volunteers man the telephone, taking hamper orders, answering questions, and finding out where donations are coming from.
It’s a well oiled machine that feeds about 700 people each month, about 300 of them children.
And it’s entirely volunteer run, said Jackie Jensen, the Food Bank’s manager.
“It has been in the news in the past few weeks that in some communities, some Food Bank volunteers are paid. But there is no exception here – nobody gets paid,” said Jensen. “We want the community to know that all of the donations are used for the purpose of helping people in Cranbrook.”
But Jensen is concerned by dwindling volunteer numbers at the Food Bank, specifically in office workers and drivers.
“We are really short and we have Christmas coming up,” she said.
The Food Bank needs at least five more volunteers in administration – answering phones, taking hamper orders and accepting donations.
“It could be that some people don’t want to volunteer because they might not think it’s that kind of work,” said Jensen.
And it is short about four drivers, who pick up goods around town and bring them back to the Food Bank. Drivers need to be able to carry about 50 pounds of weight.
“It could be that they are on call so it’s not just left to one person,” said Jensen.
The Food Bank is bracing for the busy holiday season; although it gives out the same number of hampers in December as it does every other month, community donations to the Food Bank skyrocket at this time of year.
“With Christmas coming up, in November and December we make about 50 per cent of our yearly donations,” explained Jensen.
“More people are giving donations so we need office staff here, and more companies are putting on events so we need people to represent the Food Bank.”
The Food Bank is practiced at spreading the holiday donations out throughout the year because it does not receive any government funding or grants. It is solely funded by community donations.
Because the organization is run completely by volunteers, Jensen said it’s important to have enough volunteers to allow dedicated volunteers to have time off when they need it.
“When everybody is a volunteer and people say, ‘I’m going away for a month,’ we can’t say, ‘No, you can’t.’ We need extras so that people can be a volunteer rather than be obligated to be here.”
Food Bank volunteers are on the job Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Drivers are also needed on Sundays; they are done about lunchtime. Volunteers can work any day that suits their schedule.
To support the Food Bank with your time or a donation, call 250-426-7664 or visit 104 – 8th Avenue South, Cranbrook.