Moti Bali is an easy guy to find.
At noon most days, Bali can be found standing near the corner of Russell Avenue and Johnston Road, handing out free food to vulnerable people on the Peninsula.
And while he wasn’t a driving force behind the city’s and White Rock Rotary’s ‘Feed My City’ program – in fact, he’s not even a Rotarian – he has worked his way to become the informal face of the volunteer-run service.
Retired broadcaster and White Rock Rotary Club member George Garrett contacted Peace Arch News to publicly recognize Bali’s involvement and his contributions to the program.
Garrett said what Bali offers is more than just a helping hand, but a sense of connection and community for people who may need it the most.
The program, which initially started as a one-day service in early 2020, has grown into a daily program offering about 50 meals each day. Not only has the program benefited local residents, but people from Langley and Cloverdale have been known to make the trip.
Bali, 80, didn’t ask for recognition or the limelight. His reward, he told Peace Arch News, is the opportunity to give back.
“I get a lot of satisfaction,” Bali said. “I feel, at the end of the day when I come home, gosh, I made someone smile. I made someone feel good about themselves.”
And while the age and circumstances of each customer is different, – the oldest customer being 102 years old – Bali said they each share some common ground.
“They feel that someone respects them, helps them, listens to their problems. They do a little bit of socializing when they come here,” Bali said.
“We are all on the same level. People are suffering. No matter if someone is driving a good car, there is no money in the pocket.”
Participation from Semiahmoo Peninsula restaurants, including Red Rose (2381 King George Blvd.), Bamboo (15785 Croydon Dr.), Seriously Good Catering, and White Rock Indian Flavours (15240 Russell Ave.) – who are providing the food at a $5-per-meal cost – has been critical for the program. Peace Portal Alliance Church also provides meals for the service.
The program is funded by donations from the community. Bali said they have enough money to keep the program running until June, but have every intention of raising more funds.
The launch of the program could be viewed as a parting gift to the homeless community by retired Peninsula United reverend Joan McMurtry. McMurtry, who moved to Vancouver Island a few months ago, pitched the idea of the service to the city in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic forced Semiahmoo Peninsula churches to stop offering free or low cost dine-in community dinners.
“A lot of people in our community rely on those programs, one for a nutritious meal, and secondly for some fellowship, a sense of community,” McMurtry said.
In the very early stages of the program, McMurtry said she was considering shutting it down, but Rotary stepped in.
“And it became a regular program. It went from one day a week, to three days a week, to five days a week, to seven days a week. And in the midst of all of that, people were interested and Moti was one of those. Always there, always interested to help, not at all wanting to be in charge or any kind of recognition. Just thinking this was a good thing and wanted to be part of it,” McMurtry said.
McMurtry said Bali was a natural fit for the program.
“He’s a good communicator, he’s non-judgmental, he’s interested in people. So that’s why he’s sort of become the face of it in a very informal way. In a very positive way.”
People interested in donating to the service can write cheques payable to Rotary Club of White Rock. Cheques can be dropped off during the lunch distribution hour – provided that COVID-19 protocols are respected – or mailed to Feed My City, c/o Rotary Club of White Rock, PO Box 75005, 15105 16 Ave., V4A 6G3. E-transfers may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (using ‘Feed My City’ for the question and ‘whiterock’ for the answer).