Independent of each other, Nichol (Nicki) Ward and Cory Hughes, in Slave Lake, both started delivering essential items for people who couldn’t shop because of COVID-19.
“It was just a thought I had,” says Hughes.
Since he started, he’s helped two to three people a day.
“I’ve also been there to just talk to people,” he says. The other day, he delivered food to a man whose wife had just died. The pandemic was making it difficult for the man to plan the funeral. He needed someone to talk to.
Ward’s son was six months old when the Slave Lake Fire happened. She was struck by how willing Slave Lakers are to help out. In her 10 years in Slave Lake, she’s become very involved in this aspect of small town life.
When the pandemic started, she was looking for a way to help out. She came across articles on ‘Caremongering’ – a Canada-wide movement of volunteers. The premise is simple. It is an open Facebook group called Caremongering Slave Lake. People post either their need or what they can offer.
The vast majority has been deliveries, so far, says Ward. Volunteers have delivered food bank items, groceries, medical and other essential needs to people who don’t have transportation or who are in isolation. They have helped seniors, people with chronic health conditions, and people under mandatory isolation.
Ward enjoys being able to give back to organizations like the food bank.
As unemployment rises, the food bank is busier.
In March, there were around 20 new families, says Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre executive-director Barb Courtorielle.
On April 3, Courtorielle posted on Facebook in response to numerous questions about the food bank.
“If you run short of food any time we are here to help you no questions asked, just bring Alberta Health Care (cards) for all the people in your home, also (a) recent bill or lease for where you are living. If you are couch-surfing we just need a signed note from (the) homeowner. If there are two families living together just put all names on one application.
“For some of the clients who are in isolation we are working with some great community members who are doing deliveries. The food bank hours are open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“With the high unemployment rate it is very hard to be able to put all the food you need on the table. We are here to help with the basic so you can buy those extras.
“We are keeping in mind the children who are home from school and are giving out fresh fruit and more snacks. We also have food for your pets while supplies last. Slave Lake Food Bank is for everyone. Please stay safe everyone.”
The community has stepped up to support the food bank. Sobeys started delivering; both Walmart and No Frills make donations through Food Bank Canada. Individuals have raised money.
“The support is great,” she says. “I can’t express how grateful I am to this community.”
As the main part of the Friendship Centre is closed, the food bank is run by Friendship Centre staff instead of volunteers. It is also using the fridges in the kitchen to store milk and fresh fruit and vegetables for families. This is supported by Canada Breakfast and is new for the food bank.
People can donate to through Food Bank Canada, put money on the tab at Sobeys, or send a cheque.