by Alex Wilks, Special to Peace Arch News
While some residents of the Semiahmoo Peninsula have their stockings nestled by the chimney with care, others struggle to put food on the table.
The White Rock-based Sources Community Resource Centre offers help through a local food bank that is dedicated to supporting the needs of families. This non-profit organization is run by dedicated volunteers and is supported by the donations of the people within the community.
For the residents of White Rock/South Surrey, Christmas is that special time of year where some strive to give back.
Orland Carle, 82, has been volunteering at the food bank all throughout his retirement.
“I came here at Christmas about 20 years ago to help,” Carle said. “I started off as a driver and now I work inside two days a week. It fills up my week.”
Carle said that volunteering at the food bank has given him the opportunity to give back to his community.
“When I was younger guys would come and help me move or make a cupboard,” he said. “So every chance I get, I help.”
Aside from helping people, Carle also attributes his good health to the years he has spent lifting boxes and organizing cans.
“My health has been good just coming here and doing exercise all the time,” he said. “I am in pretty good shape for 82 years old.”
Over the years, Carle has witnessed clients turn their lives around. He has seen them giving back to their community by donating or volunteering at the food bank.
“One Christmas, two clients paid us a visit on the same day,” he said, noting that after being employed for six months, they each returned with hundreds of dollars in food donations in the back of their trucks.
“We help about 650 people every week.”
The food bank reaches out to those who need it most, according to Carle.
“We have moved a few times and people have always been able to find us,” he said. “We get people from all walks of life, people living out of their cars. I think they have reached out and made Sources well known.”
Carle explained that the food bank has the local community to thank.
“We have a lot of people that donate,” he said. “The people in White Rock and South Surrey are great support for us.”
Jo-Anne Perron, 62, another longtime food bank volunteer, also finds her work to be rewarding. She said that “connecting with the clients, being a part of this community and making a difference” is the best part of her job.
She volunteers every Wednesday for five hours and is in charge of a food-distribution station, where she hands out canned meats, fresh vegetables, rice, eggs and even pet food to clients in need.
“We don’t see what goes on beyond here, but what I do see is the smiles on their faces and people telling us that we’re making a difference,” Perron said.
Recipients “communicate to us that we are making a difference for them.”
What makes a difference to Perron is that she has witnessed lives change.
“People who do get back on their feet and leave us, before they do so, they will come in and thank us and leave thank you cards. We get a lot of cards at Christmas time,” she said. “It really warms our hearts.”
Perron noted that there are no shortages when it comes to good help.
“The volunteers here are amazing, dedicated and caring,” she said. “People come from incredible backgrounds, a lot of professional people who are now retired, teachers and nurses and people from the business world. They are here giving back.”
Jaye Murray, food bank manager, has volunteered her entire life.
“It’s an important part of your life to be giving back,” she said.
According to Murray, Christmas is the time of year that the food bank relies on donations the most. More than 60 per cent of its inventory is received during this time.
“On average, we see just over 600 people per week and as we get closer to Christmas those numbers go up,” she said. “We have over 70 volunteers that truly run the food bank.”
Murray explained that people who are committed to the cause and those that can lift at least 30 pounds are welcome to volunteer.
“Food bank volunteers are what keep us going,” she said.