A decline in monetary donations over the summer months has left the shelves of the Goldstream Food Bank looking rather barren.
“It was worse than usual,” said Gayle Ireland, president of the Goldstream Food Bank. She said while donations are expected to be sparse in the summer months, this year’s were much lower than expected.
But a recent surge in donations has helped the society push forward and continue to help West Shore residents. One of those large donations came from the Langford branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, which donated $5,000 to the Goldstream Food Bank Society and $3,500 to the Westshore Christmas Hamper Fund Society.
“It’s a blessing. It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Ireland said, adding they would probably put the donation to good use in the new year to stock the shelves. “It will allow us to purchase a lot of food.”
The Goldstream Food Bank Society, a registered charity, has a staff entirely made up of volunteers that receive no monetary stipends or allowances. The society’s facilities are housed in the basement of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91, 761 Station Ave. in Langford, and supports residents of View Royal, Langford, Colwood, Highlands and Metchosin. The demand for their hampers remains high throughout the year.
Terri Orser, Branch 91 vice-president, said the Food Bank helps “so many people in our community that are less fortunate.” She noted that the Legion likes to support them because they are not only attached (physically) to the legion but also support a number of veterans. She said the Christmas Hamper Fund provides holiday hampers for veterans in supported housing.
Orser said Branch 91 raises money throughout the year to donate through 50/50 sales and meat draw raffles. They like to make a donation at this time of year, as both societies are ramping up for the holiday season and demand in the new year.
The Food Bank Society is usually open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays of the first three weeks of the month to provide food hampers but during the month of November, they are open every week. In December, the Westshore Christmas Hamper Fund Society takes over operations and provides hampers for the month. While they are two different societies that operate very differently, they are run by the same core group of volunteers
“It’s a different mission, a different society, but the same people,” Ireland said, adding they also get a surge of volunteers from local businesses to help with the Christmas hampers. “We just switch hats Dec. 1.”
While the Food Bank budgets and carefully plans to meet regular needs, the Christmas Hamper Fund operates a little differently by predicting how many hampers it will need over the holiday, stocks them and then pays for them in the new year. “You hope the money comes in and it always does,” Ireland said.
Ireland said recent donations from Thanksgiving food drives by the Juan de Fuca Junior Hockey League Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints saw “thousands of pounds of groceries” also help stock the food bank’s shelves. She noted that food drives from Spencer middle school and the Real Canadian Superstore, along with other fundraisers, also went a long way in supporting the food bank.
“It’s the citizens and small businesses that keep us going,” she said.