After getting through a rough year, which included losing their former location, things are now looking up for the Cowichan Lake Food Bank, after receiving a $1,741.93 donation from the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board last Friday (Jan. 23).
The donation was made as part of the Real Estate Board’s “Realtors Care Awards.” Given out annually, the funds typically go to not-for-profit, non-partisan organizations that are related to housing. Jason Finlayson, president of the VI Real Estate Board, said that they felt the Cowichan Lake Food Bank fit perfectly into the criteria.
“The fund goes towards a group that is related to housing, but without food, when you’re hungry, you can’t really look for housing,” Finlayson said.
Cindy Vaast, coordinator for the Cowichan Lake Food Bank, said that the group applied for the fund last November, and she was elated when they heard they had been chosen to receive part of the fund just before the new year.
Finlayson said that the VI Real Estate Board received five applications within the zone, which stretches from the Cowichan Valley to Ladysmith, with three organizations being chosen to split the pot.
Despite being the only food bank in town, the Cowichan Lake Food Bank had a close call with closure last year, after the Lake Cowichan Christian Fellowship, which had been housing the food bank’s operations for the past ten years, sold their building in November. The food bank was made aware of the situation back in 2008, and had been spending the past six years in search of a new home.
As a volunteer-driven, non-profit organization, the Cowichan Lake Food Bank’s search proved unfruitful until the Town of Lake Cowichan granted them a rent-free lease of the Mildred Child Annex building on 39 South Shore Road. The food bank is currently operating from the building, though with the six- to 12-month lease running its course, and renewal uncertain, the group continues to look for a permanent home.
“The building isn’t as big as we’d like, but we’re glad to have more time to look for a permanent location,” Cowichan Lake Food Bank spokesperson Betty Sanddar said at the time. “For the time being it’s wonderful, it’s better than running the food bank out of a storage unit, which was our next option.”
Along with receiving a temporary lease, Vaast said the food bank has also seen a spike in donations and fundraising events on their behalf.
“We’ve seen quite a few fundraisers with us needing a new home,” she said. “The community has definitely backed us up 100 per cent, and there’s a quite a few people who help us out throughout the entire year, like the Chamber of Commerce’s metal drive. It’s definitely makes it less stressful knowing we can take some time to look for a new location, instead of worrying about finding food. We have a contract for at least ten months, that’s ten months we can focus on finding a new location.”
Aside from community initiatives, the Cowichan Lake Food Bank also received a small grant from Food Banks BC last month, which allowed them to build shelving units in their new building.
To contribute to the Cowichan Lake Food Bank, residents can leave non-perishable food donations in their donation box at Country Grocer or make a cash donation by calling Cindy Vaast at 250-749-6239, Katherine Worsley at 250-709-7854 or Betty Sanddar at 250-749-4802.
Those in need of the Cowichan Lake Food Bank’s services can sign up at the Community Services building on 121 Point Ideal Road. Food hampers are handed out on the second Wednesday of each month and prepared the day before. The group hands out approximately 65 hampers each month.