Demand skyrockets at Island charity because of COVID-19

Demand for food is up 70 per cent at the Charlottetown-based charity Gifts From the Heart to the COVD-19 pandemic, says its founder Betty Begg-Brooks.

Gifts from the Heart offers help to low-income Islanders or those undergoing temporary hardships, with a free store on Spring Street in Charlottetown that offers food, clothing and other household goods.

"We're really busy, there are knocks on the door every 10 minutes and they're asking for food. Food is the biggest item they're asking for," Begg-Brooks said.

"We basically get them to move back three feet and basically we take their order, we fill their order as quickly as possible."

Once the order is complete, staff put it outside and the client picks it up, she said. The charity will also deliver — clients call in with their needs, then drivers drop off deliveries outside homes, alerting clients to the drop-off with a phone call.

Tom Steepe/CBC

Begg-Brooks found out earlier this week Gifts From the Heart will receive $10,000 from the provincial government to help clients during the COVID-19 crisis. 

"Things are looking much much better now. I was totally frustrated and thinking I might have to close the doors," she said, noting shelves at the charity right now are "pretty bare." 

Begg-Brooks said once she receives the money from the province, she will order products online and fill shelves.

"I'm getting a lot of emails," she said. "We have 700 families that we provide for now and that's for everything, but the increase that's happening is unreal."

No one turned away

Begg-Brooks said she won't turn away anyone looking for food.

The $10,000 should keep the operation running until the end of April, she said, but she still has concerns because due to COVID-19 she can't fundraise the way she typically does.

"I can't go out in groups and talk and bring in cheques," she said.

Begg-Brooks said luckily, the charity can to reapply for more money from the government at the end of April.

"None of us know how long this is going to go on and this is a very essential service," she said. "We'll hang in here till the last minute or until we run out of money."

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