Food bank, clothing co-op worry over Portland plans

·3 min read

The Portland Food Bank and Community Clothing Co-op are unsure where they'll operate as their current building will be demolished in 2022 for the development of the Portland Municipal Hub.

"We are concerned about where the Food Bank and the Clothing Co-op would be located in the plan and how much space would be allocated for these facilities," said Joan Kelly, volunteer manager of the clothing co-operative.

The local clothing co-operative and food bank have been operating out of the rear of the Portland Community Hall; the two services were grandfathered into the hall since 1997 and 2008, said Kelly during a recent delegation to Rideau Lakes council on behalf of the two community services.

The clothing co-op operates out of it rent-free while donating all the funds raised back to the community, stated the Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge website; the community organization operates under the pastoral charge's umbrella.

"It's been clear for many years that Rideau Lakes Township has been supportive of providing not only municipal services but has been in the business of caring for people that make up our wonderful township," said Kelly, adding that seeing the Municipal Hub plans without any reference to include the food bank and clothing co-op "signals a shift providing for lots of municipal office space at the expense of the needs of the community and the people who live here."

She said she hopes that this is a design oversight which will be rectified when council finalizes the space design usage in the final plan of the future Portland Municipal Hub, which is set to be developed in 2023.

Currently the hub will include co-locating the Portland Library Branch, Township administrative offices, as well as council chambers.

Mayor Arie Hoogenboom said he doesn't think council would leave the clothing co-op and food bank out in the cold as they are an essential service to the community like the other five food banks in the area. But whether there is space, and how much would be allocated to the Portland food bank and co-op, hinges on what is decided during the planning stage of the municipal hub.

"I think we owe it to Portland to make sure the food bank and the co-op is okay and that they still have a home," said Coun. Claire Smith, adding the township needs to be responsible in facilitating the food bank and co-op so they continue to have free or very low rent.

Joan said they have thought of moving to a different location but many are just not feasible or they are unable to afford the rent in other places.

During the delegation, she said there may be a short-term option available, but as of the meeting earlier this month it was unknown if it is available for use.

The food bank is operated by volunteers who provide food and clothing twice a month to approximately 18 to 20 clients. The food bank is sustained solely by monetary and food donations from private individuals and local businesses within the township.

The clothing co-op is run by volunteers who sort, display and sell clothing that was donated by the community. While the clothing is sold for $5 a bag, it is free for food bank clients during their bi-monthly visit.

One of the main fundraisers the local food bank counts on to supply food to their clients is the Build a Mountain of Food Campaign, which raised 1,900 pounds of food and $13,675 in funds this year. As well, the clothing co-op annually raises between $2,000 and $2,400, which is donated back to the Elgin and Portland Food Banks, North Leeds Toy Drive, pillowcases for CHEO, the Country Roads Community Health Centre's flex fund, previously called Dental Issues, and fire victims, said Kelly.

(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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