This past weekend Helping Hand Food Bank held its inaugural volunteer appreciation event at St. John Presbyterian Church Hall in Bradford.
Among those in attendance to honour the hardworking volunteers were York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney, Mayor Rob Keffer, and members of council.
“This support is fabulous because not only do they recognize the hard work of our volunteers, but they’re giving their time to come to our event,” said Helping Hand Executive Director Carolyn Khan. “I just find it’s a win-win all around. We’re just so grateful for all of the community support.”
Established in 1991, the food bank has become an integral part of the Bradford community helping to combat food insecurity, which it would not be able to do without its volunteer workers.
“This is our first-ever volunteer event and it was time,” said Khan. “We’ve been in existence for over 30 years and COVID has hit us so hard, and we needed to put time aside to celebrate our volunteers. We needed to do this because they’re our heart, they’re our soul, they’re our backbone, and we couldn’t do this without them and that’s why we’re here to celebrate them.”
The town and MPP’s office recognized each food bank volunteer with a certificate thanking them for their hard work as a token of their appreciation for all they do in the community.
“The Helping Hand Food Bank started over 30 years ago when Diane Granger, a local teacher, saw the need and got a group together of faith-based communities involved and the Helping Hand Food Bank has depended so much on volunteers ever since,” said Keffer. “It’s the volunteers in our community that are able to step up and deliver what the Helping Hand Food Bank does. The food bank is necessary for members of our community when times are tough and many of these same people end up being volunteers when they’re able to get their feet on the ground. The Helping Hand Food Bank is a great institution in our town.”
“I just want to thank all the volunteers,” said Deputy Mayor James Leduc. “I had the pleasure of sitting on the board for a number of years and it’s great to have seen the past volunteers work so hard. The hours the volunteers put in is astronomical and they do such a great job.”
As the population grows, so too does the need for the food bank, which now sees nearly 1,000 people needing it each month. Due to the increased need, the food bank is in the process of relocating to the old Bradford Public School to ensure more space in the future.
With the community needing the food bank more than ever and the move into a new space in the near future, it has made the need for volunteers ever more important.
“Really delighted we can do this appreciation event and celebrate the fact that the food bank could not exist without all the volunteers,” said Coun. Jonathan Scott, town council liaison for the food bank. “It’s been a busy two years, there’s been a lot of improvements and changes underway.”
A few weeks ago, Mulroney was joined by Scott and Khan to present $150,000 in provincial funding for the food bank through the Resilient Communities Fund.
“We were so pleased to provide this funding and that level of support because the work that the food bank does is vital to this community,” said Mulroney. “I’ve had the chance to speak to a number of you and we spoke about some of the ways you’re helping out and the ways you’re volunteering, but what I also heard was how your lives are enriched by the work that you do and how you get to know your community better and feel like you’re making an impact and how meaningful it is. I want to thank all the volunteers, whatever your reasons are for taking time out of your personal lives to give back. It has a significant impact on this community and you’re helping people in a meaningful way.”
The grant is going towards fixtures, furnishing, and equipment at the new community hub at the old Bradford Public School.
Without the volunteers, helping so many in the Bradford community deal with food insecurity wouldn’t be possible, nor would the move to a new building.
“On behalf of the board of directors, I want to say thank you to our volunteers for your dedication, commitment, and hard work,” said President Cyndie Pasquarella. “The food bank wouldn’t be where it is today without your support. You’re the backbone of the food bank, bottom line.”