With a growing demand for hampers, Sylvan Lake’s food bank is coping with higher community needs in a more practical new space, recently renovated by A Better World Canada.
The Sylvan Lake Community Food Bank has moved into a refurbished modular unit, rented through the Town of Sylvan Lake, and located at Four Seasons Park, 4725-43rd St.
“It’s like a palace in there,” said long-time volunteer Pam Towers, compared to the food bank’s previous home.
It used to operate in the windowless basement of the Sylvan Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church runs the charity in co-operation with other local churches and businesses.
Towers recalled it wasn’t easy to cart food up and down the 12 steps.
A Better World Canada, a Central Alberta-based international development organization, chose the Sylvan Lake Food Bank as its signature Neighbours project for 2017. The program was launched in 2012 to help Central Alberta families. This year, A Better World took on a bigger, community project in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
During May and June, dozens of Neighbours volunteers renovated the modular unit, which was formerly a preschool. They replaced the children’s toilet in the washroom with an standard one, built a kitchen, office, front desk and food storage space.
The renovations cost about $15,000. Organizers were able to get material and financial donations, as well as volunteer labour.
Like other Alberta food banks, the Sylvan Lake non-profit is coping with higher needs during a tough economic time. From January to late August, 683 hampers were given to clients — a marked increase from 2016 when just over 900 hampers were given out for the entire year.
“It’s climbed considerably,” said church elder Stan Bell. “You’re looking at just about a 25 per cent increase over last year.” Most clients are single adults, with many on disability penions.
Food bank volunteers greatly appreciate what A Better World has done: “To me it was a godsend,” said Bell. The non-profit now operates in a more practical space, with “so much light,” said volunteer Shirley Mannix.
Neighbours project co-ordinator Ronda Ziakris said about five applications a year are received, through word of mouth. “It’s very gratifying knowing that you have helped.”