Dianne MacDonnell and Kim Paolini are working to make a real difference through the Hope food bank. Dianne MacDonnell and Kim Paolini are working to make a real difference through the Hope food bank.

Christmas at Hope’s food bank a busy time for volunteers

Volunteers and love make the difference

The Christmas season carries many different meanings for different people, but for Kim Paolini and Dianne MacDonnell, it means that it’s time to gear up for what is certain to be a busy time at Hope’s food bank.

“At Christmas our client list swells by quite a bit. Generally, we have about three to four hundred people a month use the food bank, but for Christmas we’re expecting to distribute about 55 hampers,” said MacDonnell.

“It’s a hard time of year for those who are most in need of help and we’re going to try to make it a little bit easier.”

Both Paolini and MacDonnell are program co-ordinators for the food bank.

“The main thing that we’ve worked very hard at, and something that’s particularly important around Christmas, is to treat our clients with dignity and respect,” said Paolini.

“There was a time at food banks where people had to line up outside, and it was humiliating … embarrassing for them. They didn’t want to have to come to a food bank and they were often feeling ashamed at being here. We’ve done a lot to change that.”

One of the major changes made by the group is to move into their new location.

For years the group partnered with the North West Harvest Church, who had been kind enough to donate space for the program.

But as the need grew, the food bank realized that they needed to move. They now occupy a location at 888 Third Avenue North, not far from their previous location.

“Here we have the ability to get people inside, and when they come in we provide them with a nice lunch and a chance to relax in a private surrounding, and the difference is amazing,” said Paolini.

“They used to come in with their heads down, never smiling, and it was a very sad thing to see. Now they come in, and have lunch, and wait their turn to go through and pick the items they want and need.

“Some of them volunteer for us as well and there are a lot of smiles and hugs. It’s a very different feeling we have now.”

MacDonnell said the key is respecting people’s dignity.

“The people who come to the food bank don’t want to be in need of a food bank. Many are working poor, not able to get by with a minimum-wage job. Some are underemployed, only able to find part-time employment. We have single parents struggling to get by and, increasingly, we’re seeing seniors who find that their pensions are simply not enough to survive,” she said.

MacDonnell said that the food bank opened its doors in 1979 in what was seen as a stop-gap measure during tough economic times. It has never ceased operation since that time and MacDonnell said the need is growing every year.

“We’re very fortunate to have great support in this community. The Save-On Foods store and the Buy-Low Foods are both extremely generous and we have a strong group of volunteers who come in and keep us going,” said MacDonnell.

“And the community at large is so generous with donations of food and cash. It’s what makes our work possible.”

With Christmas approaching, the food bank will also be working with other agencies to distribute toys to less fortunate families in an effort to ensure that every child gets a gift this holiday season.

But there are some aspects of the food bank’s operations that are problematic and, although both Paolini and MacDonnell are loathe to seem ungrateful, they acknowledge that they are concerned about the months after Christmas.

“It’s not like people stop being hungry in January and February but, after Christmas, we know that our donations are going to pretty much dry up. I guess we’re asking for people to realize that the need continues all year round and it would be great to keep that Christmas spirit alive and continue to donate when January comes around,” said MacDonnell.

“Maybe that’s what the Christmas spirit is really all about.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

$25 million Fraser Valley highway project 18 months behind schedule

Ministry says information security protocols have ‘evolved’ since construction on project wrapped up

Racism wasn’t dealt with properly by school, says Chilliwack graduate

Woman tells story of being verbally assaulted at school for being black

Investigators comb through Chilliwack house following standoff

RCMP say investigation involves report of an early morning shooting

Chilliwack dad rescues his two young daughters after truck plunges into Cultus Lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

No need to get out of your car at food truck festival in Abbotsford and Langley

Annual event takes drive-thru approach during COVID-19 pandemic

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

VIDEO: Pitt Meadows dentist gets grand welcome home after two-month COVID-19 battle

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Stray dog with duct tape around muzzle spotted in Abbotsford

Pooch has been spotted over two days, but has escaped capture so far

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read