Collaborating with community to serve residents during the pandemic
Kirk and Linda Green, both majors with the Salvation Army and managers of its food bank in Fernie, are passionate about their community. With many years of providing food for people under their belts, they knew that this time of uncertainty and unprecedented hardship would be very different.
“How do we keep serving the people when everything’s upended by a pandemic?” reflects Major Kirk.
Under normal circumstances, over the course of several months Fernie’s food bank would serve over 200 people. Throughout the early months of the COVID-19 health crisis, however, those numbers more than doubled, with 71 of its patrons entirely new.
Early in the pandemic, the food bank received a call from the Trust offering welcome support to help it meet the inevitable growing need—support the Trust also gave to 31other food banks as well as two lunch programs in the region, totaling more than $785,000. “Before we had to ask, they offered,” says Major Kirk. “It means so much when a funder recognizes what’s going on and gets out ahead.”
With the additional funds, the food bank distributed tens of thousands of dollars in food through April, May and June. Working collaboratively with other local groups, the organization could reach a broader range of Fernie citizens, expanding support to include the families of school children, as well as seniors in lockdown.
In partnership with Fernie schools, the food bank was already providing food to school children before the pandemic. With the closure of much of the local economy, the Greens, along with their small team of staff and volunteers, were especially concerned for the kids and their families. They continued to supply food to them weekly: almost 7,000 pounds throughout the spring. Many families also received grocery gift cards.
Seniors also benefited. In addition to receiving food purchased by the food bank, the residents of Trinity Lodge—a senior’s complex with 31 suites in lockdown—received weekly deliveries of much-welcomed fresh produce and treats thanks to food donations from local restaurants and stores.
Food suppliers also delivered semi-loads of perishables to Fernie restaurants, which generously prepared and provided frozen soups, chili and stew. The seniors were thrilled to receive such a variety of meals, not to mention delivery to their doors. When lockdown lifted, the food bank team received a touching thank you card expressing the tremendous appreciation of the seniors.
The Trust funding also allowed the Salvation Army to purchase items to help protect the food bank’s employees, volunteers and patrons. This included vital signage, sanitizers and plexiglass partitions to ensure everyone’s safety as the organization continued vital operations.
It’s been important to the Greens that they maintain a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome, respected and put as at-ease as possible given the stressful circumstances. For all who entered the food bank doors, “Everyone qualified, no questions asked!” says Major Kirk.
Major Linda adds, “The community of Fernie really pulled together.” As food bank lines grew—blocks-long with everyone following the physical-distancing protocols of six feet apart—so did community support, including unexpected and significant private contributions.
Enthusiastic and grateful, Major Kirk says, “The donations and funding have allowed us to concentrate on what is really important—feeding people!”