- BC Games
Feeding the community
Poverty may not be visible on the streets of South Delta, but that doesn't mean there aren't residents going through tough times who could use some extra help.
Volunteers at Ladner Community Kitchen understand there is need in South Delta and have come to know the names and faces of those who require a hand getting by.
"Every week we see people facing economic hardships due to job losses, various disabilities, and even a few homeless individuals," says longtime Ladner resident Jini Aroon, who started the community kitchen two years ago.
Inside the kitchen, which operates in liaison with the South Delta Food Bank, a team of volunteers works quietly behind the scenes to serve soup or sandwiches every Wendesday morning to those who receive rations from the food bank. The volunteers aim to provide more than just a quick snack, but a healthy meal that's as nutritious as it is filling.
Aroon says the weekly operating cost is no more than $50 to serve about 75 people.
The volunteer crew is now preparing to host its third annual holiday dinner on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. at Ladner Christian Fellowship (5545 Ladner Trunk Rd.). There will be five turkeys, and enough mashed potatoes, gravy and side dishes to fill the bellies of up to 70 guests.
Come one, come all
The holiday dinner is not restricted to just food bank users. Volunteers have put the word out to migrant workers from Mexico and South America who work in local greenhouses during the winter, and other folks who might be looking for camaraderie during the festive season.
"Anybody who is lonely, anybody who has no place to go, anybody who is here alone with no family, they can come and have a dinner," says Aroon.
Fellow volunteer Abby Armstrong nods in agreement.
"It's not just to eat, it's to be part of the community," Armstrong says. "People have a need to connect with others and that isn't always possible if you are not involved in a workplace, a church, some society ... there's a lot of people who don't have that and maybe don't have the family."
Armstrong is also an active volunteer with the Boundary Bay Earthwise Society. Earthwise is a lead agency with the Delta Food Coalition—a network of community organizations working to address food security issues in Delta. The society has partnered with Deltassist Family & Community Services to distribute "harvest boxes" full of fresh produce to needy families.
Meanwhile, Armstrong just recently picked up a crate of potatoes from Earthwise to donate to the food bank.
She decided to volunteer with the community kitchen after experiencing firsthand the struggles of single motherhood.
"I really believe in helping families and children. It's big for me, because I know how hard it was," she says.
Being a single mother was also inspiration for community kitchen volunteer Peggy Young to get involved. Young says it is difficult to see struggling single moms line up for their rations week after week.
"I had family, I was really fortunate," she says. "Some of these people don't."
Once she retired, Young started to look for volunteer opportunities and was surprised to learn South Delta had a food bank—even though the facility has been around for some 20 years.
"I was amazed, I didn't even know there was a food bank here," she said.
That could be because the food bank keeps a low-profile, tucked away behind Ladner Christian Fellowship. Joe Van Essen is the longtime food bank co-ordinator. When he first started, about 25 families used it regularly, Now it's not uncommon to have between 90 and 120 people line up on a Wednesday morning.
All groceries are donated by the Ladner/Tsawwassen community and the service is available to people who live in South Delta and show evidence of low income. And according to Stats Canada, just over 12 per cent of Delta's population falls under the low-income bracket, after taxes.
Shelter from the storm
Just down the road from the food bank is a nine-bed emergency weather shelter set up in a spare room at Ladner United Church.
Like other extreme weather shelters in the Lower Mainland, the space is open only during weather conditions where sleeping outside might threaten health and safety. The facility, funded by BC Housing and Options Community Services Society, has been ready to open its doors since Nov. 1. Since then it has been open a handful of stormy nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
But there have been no guests yet.
"Last year we were open for 50 nights and we had people on about half of those nights," said Rev. Jim short.
Shelter volunteers last year had expected to host mostly street people. But they were proven wrong. Many of the guests that used the space were transitioning through the community. Others were in town searching for work and had ended up sleeping in their cars, while others were between apartments and some weren't able to get a bed across the river in Richmond.
On nights the shelter is open, a red sign is posted on the front door of the church. Volunteers also hit up locations such as the Ladner Bottle Depot, posting flyers to signal the shelter is available.
Guests also receive a warm meal before heading out in the morning.
"We feed people, we put coffee on. If people need a bit of help in terms of a bus ticket we've got that," said Short.
Back over at the Ladner Community Kitchen, volunteers are promoting a program where Save-on-Foods customers can donate rewards points. Volunteers will be at the Ladner location Dec. 4 and 16 from noon to 4 p.m. to explain the process.
Those wanting to attend the Dec. 3 holiday dinner are asked to RSVP by calling the food bank at 604-946-1967. Those who want to donate or volunteer, should call community kitchen co-ordinator Jini Aroon at 604-940-9355.