Community

Banking on goodwill

The Surrey Food Bank
The Surrey Food Bank's Lisa Soumang (left) and volunteers Wendy Fuller and Bob Wilson help run the North Delta Food Bank at North Delta Evangelical Free Church.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / The Leader

There was a time about 13 years ago when Wendy Fuller would have loved to have known about the group she's now a part of.

Newly divorced, with kids to feed and no income, there was a one-year period when she would have swallowed her pride and used the services of the North Delta Food Bank.

But at the time, she didn't know it existed.

It started about two years earlier at the Boys and Girls Club, and in the fall of 2011, moved to North Delta Evangelical Free Church, where Fuller is a member of the congregation – and a food bank volunteer.

Some church members had wanted to volunteer at the Surrey Food Bank, but the convenience of their location (across the street from the Boys and Girls Club) and a growing clientele meant that the available church gym was too good an idea for the Surrey Food Bank to pass on.

Now, there's more space to help to those who need it.

Lisa Soumang, the Surrey Food Bank's Hamper to Your Home coordinator and client services assistant, comes to the church every second Tuesday morning.

"I take the food there. They set up the tables and unload the food from my five-tonne reefer truck."

Instead of waiting in the a line like at the Surrey Food Bank (the North Delta Food Bank's home base), clients at the church are given tickets, and when they're called, proceed to the tables to pick up their food.

"It's a well-oiled machine," says Fuller. "Everyone knows what they're doing."

During cold weather, "we let them come in and sit in our sanctuary," says coordinator Bob Wilson, who has lived in North Delta since 1970 and had never heard of the North Delta Food Bank either.

There are 10 volunteers from the church and a handful of volunteers who came from the Boys and Girls Club.

"We want to help serve the community any way we can," says Wilson, a church member since 1988 and a retired Safeway employee who used to be on the other end of the donation system – loading food onto the Surrey Food Bank truck.

Organizers say there is no need for more volunteers, but the need for donations to the (Surrey) food bank is ongoing.

Fuller, now a life coach and a counsellor, sees herself in the faces of the clients.

"I have seen women come in needing the food bank, and they're crying out of embarrassment and shame that they have to come. It's really gut-wrenching for a woman who would never have seen herself in that position before."

She says her nature is to alleviate that embarrassment.

Soumang says the demographics of the clients are pretty much the same as at the Surrey Food Bank – single parents, working families, seniors and people with disabilities.

Since the move to the church in 2011, the number of clients has grown to 90 from about 60. (The Cloverdale Food Bank, the Surrey Food Bank's other off-site depot, has about 60 clients).

Soumang says she sees a change in the mood of the clients who come in.

"With the church, you come in, you talk, you get smiled at – they ave a feeling of welcome that they couldn't get at the Boys and Girls Club."

"Every person that walks in the door has a sense of worth and value," adds Fuller. "My heart gets all warm and fuzzy when I think about it."

The Surrey Food Bank distributes food every second Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the North Delta Evangelical Free Church, 11300 84 Ave. Registration (including proof of need) is the same as at the Surrey Food Bank. For more information, call 604-581-5433, Ext. 110 or visit www.surreyfoodbank.org

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