Potlotek celebrates grand opening of foodbank

·3 min read

POTLOTEK — Anita Basque couldn't have been more excited as Potlotek First Nation officially opened its new food bank on Wednesday.

“My heart is just bursting,” said the 61-year-old Basque.

Basque, a band councillor for the Mi'kmaq community in Richmond County, has been championing the need for a food bank for years.

When she was first elected in 2016, she made it a priority to tackle food insecurity within the community but she is adamant she could never have done it alone.

Although she couldn’t remember everyone who has helped, she said Tahirih Paul was instrumental in securing funding, Mary Susan Lafford worked tirelessly to help with fundraising efforts and CEO Crystal Nicholas and Chief Wilbert Marshall helped in many ways.

The food bank is run largely by a team of volunteers and receives a lot of donations from within the community, but Basque is also starting to see help from other communities and knows having a permanent structure will make a difference. She also hopes they will soon receive donations from larger organizations.

“It means a lot to the community,” said Basque.

They largely raise donations through food drive efforts, a Chase the Ace fundraiser and from community harvesters. Three moose were recently donated and most of that meat has already been handed out. The remainder is in the food bank’s deep freezers for future use.

She said, for the most part, the food bank serves 50 households but they are committed to helping everyone in need and won’t turn anyone away.

Peter Battiste is a community member and a Red Seal carpenter, who helped build the food bank. He knows there are families struggling to find work and need help to get through the leaner weeks. So he was proud to be involved.

“I'm pretty proud of myself and the guys who helped put this up,” said the 37-year-old.

Construction on the $40,000 structure started in early August and Battiste and his team built it from the foundation up.

He remembers fondly playing with his dad's tools as a child and that’s driven him to love working with his hands and carpentry is a way for him to keep things fresh.

“I’m always somewhere different. I don’t think I could handle being in an office,” said Battiste.

He was happy to take part in the grand opening celebrations, which took place at the community hall and had about 30 people in attendance. People were expected to wear a mask and chairs were spaced out. RCMP Sgt. Ed Nugent was also on hand and said he hoped to work with the community on future food drive efforts.

A red ribbon-cutting ceremony took place outside the food bank and the crowd was boisterous and excited.

Basque said people in the community know it will help and she's excited to help those in need.

“We’re ready to give out food,” said Basque.

The food banks hours of operation aren’t set in stone because Basque hopes to meet the needs of the community. Tentatively they plan to open from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on weeks opposite to the delivery of social assistance cheques.

-30-

Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post