CARBONEAR, NL — A plan that was years in the making to take ownership of the building where it’s served thousands of clients is paying off big time for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank in Carbonear.
Late last year, a deal was finalized with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Falls and Knights of Columbus Monsignor McCarthy Council 5902 giving the food bank building and adjacent land to Society of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Patrick’s Conference (SVP).
“Since 2013, we’ve been trying,” SVP chairperson Kerri Abbott told The Compass when asked about the group’s interest in owning the building.
SSVP, which already existed as a registered charity, is now an incorporated body. That designation, combined with the property ownership, allows the group to apply for government funding and grants.
According to Abbott, it made perfect sense for SVP to own the building and go after funding for improvements, given the diocese already owned other properties in the community requiring upkeep, such as the church and parish house just up the road from the food bank.
“For some pots of money, you have to be an incorporated body,” Abbott said, noting an executive was already in place and becoming incorporated required nothing more than the filling out of a form.
Already, the move is paying dividends for the group. Through the provincial government’s Job Creation Partnerships program, several workers were hired to spruce up the building’s interior. Then with funds from the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, SVP was able to hire Avalon Interiors Corp. to look after exterior upgrades, replace windows and repair the roof. The building now has new heaters and hot water and will eventually be wheelchair accessible, with a wheelchair accessible bathroom also in the works upstairs. Altogether, almost $100,000 worth of upgrades will be taken care of.
SVP will also make use of the upstairs once renovations are finished there. The food bank itself will remain in the basement, but with added space comes the opportunity to serve clients in other ways.
Offices will be moved upstairs, and SVP will make the large board room available for rentals and to host training sessions for clients. Abbott said there’s also going to be a floating office used by a rotating cast of service providers on a monthly basis.
“We can get someone in like a health nurse to come in and check blood pressure,” Abbott said, offering an example of who they hope to bring in for clients. “We can get a foot nurse to come in. We can get a mental health nurse to come in. Because right now they have to access those services elsewhere, and for most of the clientele we serve, transportation is a huge issue, because there’s no public transportation at all.”
A dedicated room for clothing donations will also be set up where clients can privately try on items and take home what fits with their needs. And Abbott hopes to have a computer and phone set up for public use along with an area where clients can simply sit and relax if need be. Many clients, Abbott noted, already make use of the building’s Wi-Fi to apply for jobs.
“One of the issues we’re finding with people is they come in and they need help navigating government systems,” she said. “They’re familiar with us, they’re familiar with this place — it’s less institutional.”
In the back yard, SVP also hopes to set up raised garden beds where vegetables can be grown and shared with clients.
On average, the SVP Food Bank in Carbonear serves 300-400 households monthly. It serves communities all the way to Old Perlican and down the North Shore.