Local service clubs come together in solidarity for the Salvation Army Food Bank


The Salvation Army Food Bank in Port Elgin has reason to celebrate as it now has a new van after the demise of its old one, thanks to local service clubs that came together in a community response.


Port Elgin Rotary, Saugeen Shores Rotary, Southampton Rotary and the Lions Club each donated $7,500 toward the new vehicle.

(L) Rotarians Alex Thorburn, Cathy Janveau, Bob Speight, Food Bank’s Nikki Thompson, Rotarians Ken McCulloch, June Van Bastelaar, Pat O’Connor, John Van Bastelaar, Melinda Myette, Salvation Army Lt. Rory Hewson and wife, Rebecca, Rotarian Dave Bertrand – For larger view, Click on Image

For larger view, Click on Image

On hand for the celebration on Thursday, January 18th, were Lt. Rory Hewson and wife, Rebecca, of the Salvation Army. “This is a vehicle of Hope,” said Rory Hewson, “just as the Food Bank brings hope to so many in these difficult times.  The van is used to pick up food from our many local stores that are so generous such as Independent, Foodland, WalMart and Starbucks.  It has been incredible how the community has come together.”

  Lt. Rory Hewson and wife, Rebecca cut the                          ‘Thank You’ cake

He went on to explain that the Food Bank now has a permanent staff, Nikki Thompson, in Port Elgin. “To help support the growing need in this community, we now have a steady presence with a permanent employee which has been a huge change. For many years, there was only someone here for a few hours a week and now we have someone here all the time, Nikki and her ‘army of volunteers’.  We are also now providing lunches for schools in the area.  Someone from the school will come and pick up the lunches that are prepared here.”

He also said that a new one-on-one program is being established to help people who want to attain goals for a brighter future. “Food is always going to be important but we are also looking at what else we can offer people.

Nikki Thompson also went to explain how people can use the Food Bank. “If they are new, we do a short intake with them for basic information to get basic information such as a phone number and address, their situation, how much rent they are paying, etc.  It just tells us what is going on in their lives.  More and more people who are coming in are homeowners, may have a job or be laid off, or are self-employed and have never used a Food Bank in their whole lives and they are devastated.”

“The intake takes only a few minutes but if they provide information, we may be able to refer them to agencies that can help with things like employment or daycare,” Thompson said. “Id is required but sometimes we have to get creative with that and we don’t require proof of income as we also know that can look very different for everyone.”

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Households can visit once a month or every 30 days but, according to Thompson, there are unique situations where exceptions can be made. “All the items are colour coded and we use the shopping room model which has been hugely successful.  It is dignifying when people can choose what they want instead of just giving them items they may not use and it ends up in the garbage.  So, they can pick out what they want to eat, or perhaps, can eat due to allergies.”

Volunteers June and John Van Bastelaar accompany shoppers.  June says that “… it is really good to have that personal contact and you have a first name so you can converse with them as to what they need or want.  There are people who come in who don’t have a stove or who may be living in a motel room with only a mini-fridge and a microwave, so we have to be flexible.”

Thompson pointed out that the Food Bank is not meant to be a person’s sole source of food. “It’s really difficult though when 70 to 80 per cent of someone’s check is going to rent but it is there to help them get through the month when their income comes up short.”

The Food Bank at Maple Square Mall can also be used as a ‘top up’, according to Thompson.

“As volunteers,” said John Van Bastelaar, “we really enjoy this shopping model.  We enjoy talking to the people and we’ve had people from Ukraine, Mexico, Pakistan and use Google translate to talk with them. When it comes to shopping, we here in Port Elgin are setting the bar with our 21 volunteers and shopping model.”

“We try to encourage appointments,” added Thompson, “so people don’t have to wait long and we aren’t too overwhelmed.  The middle of the month tends to be busier for families with children.  Right now though it’s very unpredictable.”

The Food Bank is now open three days a week – Monday, Tuesday and Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon (closed for lunch) and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., with a morning and afternoon crew of volunteers.