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Tough times have more people seeking help from Edmonton's community-run Care Closet

Jeniffer Houle's gas tank was on empty when she arrived at the Mill Woods Care Closet in south Edmonton to pick up groceries and clothing for her four children.  (Clare Bonnyman/ CBC - image credit)
Jeniffer Houle's gas tank was on empty when she arrived at the Mill Woods Care Closet in south Edmonton to pick up groceries and clothing for her four children. (Clare Bonnyman/ CBC - image credit)

Jeniffer Houle was out of food, out of gas and out of money when she arrived at the Mill Woods Care Closet in south Edmonton.

The mom-of-four left after being topped up not just physically — with groceries, clothing for her children and cash to fill up her van — but spiritually as well.

"It's a bit of a relief," said Houle, who is currently on AISH. Her partner, who works in construction, is finding it difficult to find a winter job.

"We're not just completely alone and on our own," she said. "If you make the effort to get help, you can get help."

The community-run food and clothing bank, operated for more than 30 years by the Calvary Community Church, is seeing more people like Houle as the rising cost of living puts struggling Edmontonians into even tougher spots.

The agency helps about 2,000 people a year, almost all of them newcomers and low-income families, said Bev Sesink, church pastor and Care Closet director, in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"We used to have the regulars but now it's like three-quarters of them are brand new," he said. "A number of them are employed, but people also on AISH and other circumstances who find they just can't make ends meet."

Image submitted by Pastor Bev Sesink
Image submitted by Pastor Bev Sesink

To the clients, who book appointments online, the organization offers more than just clothing and halal food. There are small household items available.

And every client is offered a cup of tea or coffee.

"We take the time to just ask them some questions," Sesink said. "So we give them the opportunity to let us know about their present situation."

Listen here | A local community run food and clothing bank is noticing an increase in demand 

The Care Closet has an annual budget of about $50,000, primarily donated by the church. They also receive goods as needed from other neighbourhood companies.

"We seek to meet their needs as much as we can," said Sesink. "We're happy to give what we can and also direct them to other community resources."

The Care Closet's mission to serve and connect with the community is important to volunteer Deborah Herrewynen.

She said she wanted to do something truly helpful.

"We meet people, encourage them, remember their names, care about them."