The Good Happenings Food Bank in South River can move ahead with renovations at its new site thanks to a significant contribution from council. Council is giving the food bank $10,000 on the condition the money be used for capital works. In a phone interview with The Nugget, Andrew Nixon, coordinator of the food bank, said that's exactly what the money will go toward. The food bank is relocating to the former Chalmers United Church but before that happens Nixon said the new site would need a firewall built, new lighting and the wiring will have to be changed to accommodate the food bank's freezers. Nixon said the food bank estimated the renovations at $10,000. For years the Good Happenings Food Bank has operated from the former town hall building at Ottawa and Hunter streets. When the municipality left the site in 2010 for its new home on Marie Street, it leased out the old building as office space to the private sector and continued to provide free rent at the site for the food bank. However, clerk administrator Don McArthur says when the main tenant outgrew the space and left the building in 2019, the municipality decided to sell it rather than look for a replacement tenant. The food bank was allowed to remain at the former town hall building rent-free until a buyer was found. The building was sold in February and because it was now owned by the private sector, the food bank began paying rent. Nixon told The Nugget the rent amounted to $350 a month. The food bank will remain at the present site until the renovations at the former church are complete, a process that could take six to 12 months. The food bank serves the communities of South River, Machar, Lount and Loring. Nixon said the intent of the food bank is to also ask the other three communities it serves for some sort of financial aid to help with the relocation. The District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board provides the food bank with some money but Nixon said it won't be able to offer additional funds to help with the relocation. Nixon said the new site is about twice the size of the current location. The goal is to make the new site its final home. Nixon was unable to provide information on what rent the food bank will pay at its new home. Nixon says as a non-profit organization, COVID-19 has made it tough to raise money to buy food. In the past, the food bank could count on the local fire department to carry out food drives, but the pandemic has wiped out the last two drives. COVID-19 has also hampered efforts for the food bank to hold its annual barbeque where it raises money for the food it buys. The food bank is a member of the Ontario Association of Food Banks which also steps in to help the local agency with food. Private donations also come in to help buy supplies and Nixon said the local public school also helps. The Good Happenings Food Bank has about 200 clients, but the numbers have increased slightly, possibly as a result of the Christmas season. But Nixon cautions just as COVID has affected fundraising efforts, it will also have a longer term effect. Nixon believes COVID will continue to push food prices up and that's when the local food bank and other food banks will see an increase in the clientele they serve. “We're going to have a crunch on the system,” Nixon said. This is a busy week for the food bank as it prepares to hand out its annual Christmas hampers. Last week was busy for the food bank with the annual Christmas Hamper pick-up at the Higher Heights Christian Fellowship Church.
The local Lions Club bought turkeys and hams for the hamper and the food bank added potatoes, carrots, onions, a loaf of bread, bacon, one dozen eggs, cereal, crackers, canned goods and an orange for every member of the household plus candy canes.
More than 100 hampers were picked up.
People who were unable to pick up a hamper and remain in need of one should contact the food bank.
All efforts will be made to get families in need a hamper up to Christmas Eve.
The Good Happenings Food Bank stores its perishable food in one refrigerator and six freezers, three of which are on site at the food bank and the remainder off site. Nixon has no plans to move the off site freezers to the new home at the former church. The food bank has 10 volunteers and Nixon says it can always use a few extra helpers. Anyone in the catchment area of the Good Happenings Food Bank who would like to volunteer can call Nixon at 705-978-0383. The new owner of the former Chalmers United Church is Employment North, which currently has offices in Sundridge and Huntsville. South River clerk administrator Don McArthur says council has been supportive of Employment North to bring services to South River and to make the former church a “very viable hub in the heart of South River. “And with the work that the Good Happenings Food Bank does, it's a perfect fit for that location and the Mayor and Council are pleased to support the initiative.” McArthur said. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget