Rheanna Sidhu, Darryl Walker, Joan McMurtry, Raj Rajogopal and Marc Neufeld gather at the serving station. (Alex Browne photo)

Rheanna Sidhu, Darryl Walker, Joan McMurtry, Raj Rajogopal and Marc Neufeld gather at the serving station. (Alex Browne photo)

Serving station helps White Rock Rotary hot meal program

Donated structure will have life beyond pandemic

A newly constructed building in uptown White Rock is getting the thumbs-up from both the city and the community at large.

The small structure – donated to the White Rock Rotary Club and constructed by volunteer labour – is providing a semi-permanent and secure base for the ongoing hot meal initiative at the city-owned parking lot beside the White Rock Playhouse.

Dubbed the ‘Rotary serving station’ by program co-ordinator and district governor designate Raj Rajogopal, the cedar hut was declared open on Tuesday (July 21) by White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, Rajogopal, meal program initiator Joan McMurtry, Rotary member Rheanna Sidhu and Marc Neufeld, project manager for Premium Fencing.

The program, designed to supply hot lunches for the homeless – and others undergoing economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic – is a four-day-a-week city and rotary collaboration, launched in May to join an existing Wednesday sandwich program provided by Peace Portal Alliance Church.

READ MORE: Uptown White Rock lunch program off to a good start

Latest development at the site is thanks to Premium Fencing, which split the materials costs with supplier Poco Building Supply and provided a volunteer crew to assemble it.

Sidhu said the serving station came about after it was decided that a more permanent, weather-proof structure for food distribution would be an improvement over a tent.

“I approached (Premium), asking for a discount on a pre-fabricated shed, and instead they said, ‘why don’t we custom-build you something?’

“I never could have imagined they would have been so generous,” she said.

McMurtry said she had originally only envisioned a temporary ‘shack’ for the project. She noted the new structure would provide a more durable option while Rotary and local faith groups continue to find ways to fill the social gap left by the curtailment of usual community meal programs by the pandemic.

Neufeld said it was a natural for the company and its supplier to want to help.

“When you’ve had a good year and your company is doing well you definitely want to give back to the community in some form,” he said.

He noted that the serving station is a modification of an existing shed plan, with higher walls, an enlarged ‘barn door’ serving hatch and a bigger overhang to provide greater shelter for program participants in rainy weather.

“Now it’s fully assembled, it can legally fit on a truck to be moved to another site,” he said. “The shed itself should last around 15 years.”

Rajogopal said that means the serving station will likely have continued use by the club for other events and programs adjacent to the Rotary Fieldhouse in South Surrey, once the pandemic is over.

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