Food bank, clothing co-op in search of new home as township plans community hub

·3 min read
The Portland Food Bank and Community Clothing Co-operative in Portland, Ont., will need to find a new home once the community hall they're located in is demolished to make way for a community hub that will include municipal offices, a public library and community centre. (Ben Andrews/CBC News - image credit)
The Portland Food Bank and Community Clothing Co-operative in Portland, Ont., will need to find a new home once the community hall they're located in is demolished to make way for a community hub that will include municipal offices, a public library and community centre. (Ben Andrews/CBC News - image credit)

The volunteers who run a local food bank and clothing co-operative in the village of Portland, Ont., say they're worried about being able to afford rent anywhere else once the community hall where they set up shop years ago is demolished.

The council of the Township of Rideau Lakes, which governs a collection of towns and hamlets south of Ottawa, voted last week to approve a new community hub where the aging Portland Community Hall now stands.

The Portland Food Bank moved into a cramped space at the back of the hall in 1997, and it was joined by the Community Clothing Co-operative about a decade later. The two organizations have have operated rent-free in the municipally-owned space ever since.

The newly approved community hub is set to house municipal offices, a public library and a community centre, but the plan does not mention either the food bank or the clothing co-op.

"Nowhere do I see a space for us," said Joan Kelly, volunteer manager with the co-op. "This is a hard time of year at Christmas, and we really don't want to be telling our clients that we might not be here [next year]."

Ben Andrews/CBC News
Ben Andrews/CBC News

Demolition of the community hall is expected to happen sometime next year. In a release, the municipality said it will develop a transition plan to relocate the building's current tenants.

Kelly said she hasn't been told the plan and doubts either organization could afford to rent a space anywhere in the village.

Rent an obstacle

The food bank opens its doors to those in need on the first and third Tuesday of every month and is financed by donations alone, said volunteer manager Louise Martin.

She said the most recent food drive raised $13,000 and nearly more than 900 kilograms of food.

I've assured the folks at the food bank and the clothing co-op that they will not be abandoned. - Mayor Arie Hoogenboom, Township of Rideau Lakes

With no overhead, all the donations go directly toward feed the 21 families who rely on the bank for support, she said, however she worries the food bank wouldn't be able to provide that same assistance if it had to pay rent .

"Pay with what?" she said. "My salary? Perfect. I'll put 100 per cent of my salary toward the rent – but I'm not being paid."

The clothing co-op sells clothing by the grocery bag — as much as a person can stuff inside for $5. The organization raises around $2,000 a year that way, Kelly said.

"If we have to find a space and pay for that space – I'm not sure what our purpose would be," she said.

'They will not be abandoned'

The municipality is serviced by five food banks, said the township's Mayor Arie Hoogenboom.

Hoogenboom said most operate out of donated church space, and the Portland Food Bank is the only one to use municipally-owned property.

He said both services have benefited from "unused space" in the old community hall, but a busy municipal hub may not be the best location to protect their clients' privacy.

Hoogenboom said council is exploring alternative locations for the organizations to move.

"I've assured the folks at the food bank and the clothing co-op that they will not be abandoned," he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting