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Main photo: Some of the smiling faces that you might see if you stop by The Table Food Bank (from left) volunteers Dallas Standfield, Kathy Verhey, The Table founder Heather Berg, food bank manager Barb Stronach and volunteer Kathy Rogers
Huntsville Doppler will be running two Christmas profiles on local organizations and the people who go above and beyond to make the season extra bright for those less fortunate.
Indeed, it’s a time to give a little more, but it’s also easy to forget that for those who don’t have much to give, the days leading up to Christmas can be full of worry and stress. Not everyone has the means to give because they are barely getting by as it is. We are lucky that this town is jam-packed full of selfless, mindful, extremely generous folks and a big handful of them are volunteering at The Table Food Bank right now.
If they get their Christmas wish, there will be no hungry bellies on Christmas Day. Nor will anyone be out on the streets cold and alone, nor will there will be a single household in town without presents under the tree and a special feast and hearts filled with joy.
The volunteers who are a part of The Table Food Bank go the extra mile at this time of year. There’s a commonality among these hard-working, dedicated people and that’s that they truly care. (Don’t all volunteers, though?) And let’s not forget for a split second that this amazing organization in all its entirety—think The Table Soup Kitchen and the men’s shelter, which just re-opened two weeks ago—wouldn’t even be here in our beautiful town if it wasn’t for founder Heather Berg.
“Yes, the generousity of the community never ceases to amaze me,” Heather says. “I’m so blessed to be doing what I love to do. This is my calling… my vocation. There’s so many people who do so much. The Table Food Bank is an exciting place to be. I think you can see that right away. I don’t think there’s a day where there isn’t a lot of activity going on.”
No one will be turned away at the food bank, regardless if someone needs its services once or ongoing. This is around the time when things start to pick up. It gets busier every day. And there is absolutely no judgement toward anyone who enters through the door, which is open Tuesday and Friday from 12 to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from noon until 1. In fact, they will be made to feel welcome, perhaps even given a tour of everything that’s available for them. What started as a weekly soup kitchen to feed the hungry has become so much more.
Upstairs at the food bank, there’s the exchange store, New to You. You can definitely tell that the volunteers have gone out of their way to make this space special. It’s neat and tidy and there’s racks of gently used clothes up for grabs (for free!) to anyone who needs something.
The food bank has got some added programs for Christmas like Love Connections, Gifts for Kids and family sponsorship. There’s kids’ Christmas shopping where children can come in around the last day of school and shop for their parents and siblings and Home Depot staff are on hand to wrap the presents.
Everyone wants to give at Christmas… including young children. We don’t want there to be any barriers for those who want to love on their family members. Heather Berg
Food and toy donations are starting to come in (the more, the merrier of course) and that means that volunteers like Kathy Rogers, Kathy Verhey, Barb Stronach, Elaine Super, Dallas Standfield, Justine McDonnell, Susie Larose and Lynne Doyle (and that’s just naming a few. There are simply too many to mention in this story!) are all lending a hand out of the goodness of their hearts to make the food bank successful and fully accessible to people in need. The Table Food Bank sees between 50 and 60 people coming in twice a week to get food items that they need. From now until Christmas, there will be a spike in the number of people who visit the food bank.
What we need everyone to remember is that is an issue that’s here all year. We’d love to see more people making committed monthly donations. At Christmas we receive 60 per cent of our donations for the year, but we’d love for people to remember there are people struggling all year. What we really need is more committed volunteers and that’s a tough thing to ask for. Heather Berg
For Kathy Rogers, it’s all about being part of the greater good. To be able to give something back to her hometown means something to her. Plus, she really enjoys interacting with the people who come in. And she speaks highly of her fellow volunteers, calling them a good group who have a lot of fun together. Kathy is also one of the only volunteers who goes out to pick up donations if someone can’t get them to the food bank. She says aside from the normal food donations, there is a need for kids clothing, baby clothes, men’s wear, blankets, pillows, pots and pans and dishes. (No electronics, though. Thanks, anyway).
This will be the first year that Kathy will participate in the fill-a-truck event, which is being held outside Walmart, Independent Grocers and Huntsville Place Mall on December 1 from 1 to 4 p.m. This is a crucial time for the food bank for donations of Christmas presents for families and she’s happy to be part of the collection.
For 63-year-old Barb Stronach, the act of volunteering is something that was passed onto her by her parents, and now it’s something she’s instilling in her own kids. What’s refreshing about Barb’s take on volunteer work is that she doesn’t have to think twice about why she’s doing it. She’s volunteering to give back to a community she feels is so great.
“When it comes to the food bank, I guess I feel that I have a certain expertise,” says Stronach. “I worked hard all my life and now that I’m retired I probably spend more than 40 hours a week at the food bank. If I can’t do it, then I find someone who can do it for me or with me. We have so many wonderful volunteers.”
It just so happens that this year, The Table Soup Kitchen will serve free meals on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. In the past, the dinners have fed between 50 and 60 people.
“We’re always here,” says Barb. “We don’t shut down. Christmas is coming but we’re here year round.”
The community consistently steps up to the plate when it comes to food donations but there’s currently a big need for monetary donations as well. It is The Table Food Bank’s hope that every guest who comes through the door the week before Christmas receives a meat item for their Christmas dinner. Hunters Bay Radio has generously donated 90 turkeys, but the food bank still needs more meat donations such as hams and chickens.
Heather says that being a volunteer is hugely rewarding (that’s how it all started for her!) and there are plenty of rewarding opportunities for those who want to become involved in this amazing organization.
Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by visiting www.thetablefoundation.ca or by calling 705-783-5827.
On any given day, The Table Food Bank hands out between 80 and 100 baskets of food and in 2017 9,700 baskets were given to those who needed it. Last year volunteers served roughly 3,500 meals at The Table Soup Kitchen. Broken down, that’s about 150 people every week. According to Berg, over 10 per cent of the Huntsville population comes to The Table Food Bank for help every year.
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