Left to right: Denise DeSorcy, Hope Community Services (HCS) board chair, and Michele Thornhill, HCS executive director, in a room filled with BC Thanksgiving Food Drive donations waiting to be sorted by volunteers. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Left to right: Denise DeSorcy, Hope Community Services (HCS) board chair, and Michele Thornhill, HCS executive director, in a room filled with BC Thanksgiving Food Drive donations waiting to be sorted by volunteers. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Hope community responds during BC Thanksgiving Food Drive

The Hope food bank received around 10,000 pounds of food donations through the September event

Several rooms at Hope’s Northwest Harvest Church are stuffed with food following a very successful BC Thanksgiving Food Drive.

Paper grocery bags were left on the doorsteps of Hope homes in early September, and on September 25, volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints picked up any bags that were filled with food and left outside.

Michele Thornhill, executive director of Hope Community Services, said an estimated 10,000 pounds was collected. Donations will be used to stock the food bank, a service that as of Oct. 5 had 459 people registered for access.

Tuesday morning, Thornhill was Northwest Harvest Church at 888 Third Avenue, where preparation was underway for hamper pickups Wednesday and Thursday. Participants are now be able to fill out an order form and enjoy a meal in the dining room (or take-away if they prefer) while a staff member/volunteer puts together their hamper.

“They can tick off what they want and we’ll go get it for them,” Thornhill said. “We want people to have choices, rather than me deciding that tomato soup is what they like. Maybe they hate tomato soup!”

While Thornhill was impressed by the generosity of the community, some problems did come up.

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She said the food bank is transitioning to healthier items, and many donated foods don’t fit that vision. Thornhill said that while looking at a box filled to the brim with packages of Mr. Noodle packages.

“We know that people that are low income, their health outcomes are much worse than the general population, and we don’t want to contribute to that by giving them unhealthy food,” Thornhill said.

A lot of expired food was also donated, including one item dating back to 2009. Unfortunately, Thornhill explained, a lot of it has to go straight into the garbage and the food bank has to pay to dispose of it at the Hope Transfer Station. Depending on the item, if it’s expired in the past year, it may still be made available to clients but it won’t be included in hampers.

Thornhill said items like canned salmon/tuna, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, canned beans, dried pasta and rice are desired donations. Cash donations are also very useful, allowing the food bank to purchase healthy options like fresh produce and dairy that can be included in hampers.

Cash donations also go towards Hope Community Services programs like ‘Adventures in Cooking,’ a food skills program for kids ages 8-12.

The ‘After the Bell’ program is another beneficiary. Funds are used to provide 25-30 healthy snack packs for registered school-aged children to pick up, once a week over summer vacation.

“Cash donations help us buy perishable goods to include in those packs, things like apples, cheese strips and yogurt,” Thornhill said.

Hope Community Services has also started ‘Market for Less,’ which sees the organization using cash donations to buy produce and eggs. That food is then and re-sold at a deeply discounted price.

“Part of the feedback that we get is that people don’t just want to get a handout,” Thornhill said. “They want to contribute in some way. They’ll tell us, ‘I can afford 25 cents for a carrot or $2 for a dozen eggs.”

Cash donations can be made online at hopecommunityservices.com, or people can visit the Hope Community Services office (434 Wallace Street), which is open from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday.


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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