Food banks on the Burin Peninsula are having a hard time keeping up with requests for assistance these days, acknowledges Tara Planke.
The people who are turning to them have evolved to include a broader spectrum of society as well, adds Planke, co-chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network’s (NLHHN) Burin Peninsula Community Advisory Board.
“Over the last number of years, the need is unreal,” she says.
The Southern Gazette spoke to Planke, Sharon Snook, co-chair, and Shirley Coady, a director, about the volunteer-run board’s work recently, in advance of its only major fundraiser, the annual Pancake Breakfast for Homelessness at St. Gabriel’s Hall in Marystown taking place on Tuesday, March 5.
Ultimately, Snook says the community advisory board’s main goal is not fundraising, but capacity building – helping develop and strengthen human and organizational resources around housing and homelessness issues in the region.
“We don’t exist to be a fundraising group. That is part of what we do and we help when we can,” she says. “Our value can’t be measured on our bottom line.”
Assisting local food banks make connections is among the capacity-building activities whereby the local community advisory board has had success.
Both Sobey and No Frills in Marystown have collection boxes for donations to local food banks that are projects of the board and sponsored by the businesses. The bin at No Frills was made by Keyin College with supplies that were donated by Aylward’s Home Hardware.
“We didn’t have to spend money on those things,” says Coady, “because we really don’t have money to spend on those things.”
The board also helps by promoting anyone who is organizing food bank collections on its Facebook page.
Outside of assisting food banks, the board connects local organizations with various provincial groups, such as Choices for Youth and the Community Sector Council Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as with training opportunities offered by the NLHHN.
The board has also helped both the Smallwood Crescent Community Centre and the Salvation Army in Marystown get funding for major projects through endorsement letters. The community centre created a self-serve laundromat, while the Salvation Army was able to totally renovate its kitchen and now offers free community lunches twice a month.
The board encourages its community partners to sponsor lunches at The Merge in Marystown and does so itself on occasion.
“There’s a lot of needs in the community, but there’s a lot of groups already doing great work, so I guess the purpose of our group is to keep the connections going,” Snook says.
Progress through pancakes
The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network’s Burin Peninsula Community Advisory Board is once again dishing up a pancake breakfast at St. Gabriel’s Hall next week.
The event, which will take place from 7 a.m.-1 p.m., is the organization’s only fundraiser, according to board co-chair Tara Planke.
All funds donated by the board in the area come from this single event, she says. In the past, those contributions have included donations to breakfast programs at local schools, as well as food banks in Marystown, Burin, Grand Bank and St. Lawrence. It also has funded an adopt-a-family project at Christmastime and other initiatives.
Director Shirley Coady says the reason why the board does so well at the event each year is because of its community partners.
“They’re so giving,” she said, adding there are never any problems attracting enough volunteers to help out at the pancake breakfast.
The inclusiveness of the event also makes it special, Coady adds. It’s for everyone, regardless of social status.
“Everybody comes together in a room and that makes such a big difference to people’s lives. It really do,” Coady says.
“There’s lots that come and give a donation; there’s lots that don’t, but it’s never an issue,” board co-chair Sharon Snook says.