Food bank has new hours and new protocols

St. Stephen – The Volunteer Center of Charlotte County Inc. has new hours of operation for its food bank, and new protocols to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Coordinator Donna Linton said the food bank is now open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and on Fridays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. They have also adopted several new protocols that they hope will help to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Linton said they are doing what they can to encourage social distancing. They are only allowing six people into the building at any given time (plus the volunteers), and they are trying to promote food deliveries so people don’t have to go in at all. At the moment, there are two volunteer delivery drivers, and there may be others in the future. For those who do visit to pick up food, they are asked to follow all of the social distancing protocols in place. At times, the door will be locked, and people are asked to wait to be let in.

“It’s a public building and we have social distancing, and expect people to get what they are there for and leave. No lingering around and chatting,” said Linton.

For those who do visit the Volunteer Center, they are required to wash their hands as soon as they walk through the doors. Linton said studies have shown that this is one of the best ways to kill the virus, and they have facilities in the building where there is plenty of Purell hand sanitizing soap.

When you walk through the main door, there is one thing that immediately stands out – a Plexiglas barrier around the front desk. Linton said this is going to make it safer for volunteers and employees working the desk who have compromised immune systems. This means they will be able to go back to regular operations, including helping people prepare their income taxes.

“We have the reception desk wrapped in Plexiglas,” said Linton. “We began accepting taxes again as of April 1. The deadline for filing 2019 tax returns has been extended until June 1.”

So, how is the food bank faring at a time when people may not be able to visit stores due to quarantining and self-isolation? Linton said they are not experiencing any increase in clients at the moment and their shelves are full, however, they are in need of two main staples, rice and canned tuna.

Linton said she is concerned there may be a higher number of families needing to use the food bank as summer approaches. She said this is not an overnight decision for most people, and it is generally a last choice after “exploring all options” after eating what they had on hand and have nothing left and no way to get more.

“This may occur during a time when annual fixed expenses occur, taxes, insurance, water. We are planning to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of clients and that the shelves are beyond full for the long summer months ahead. We want to be in a position to assist an additional 70 families monthly by summer. That will be our challenge”

Linton said she is very grateful for the donations received from the community, adding that it is these donations that help her and her crew to keep the food bank going. If anyone needs services from the Volunteer Centre, including help with taxes and food items, they can visit during the new hours. Anyone who is unsure about the best time to go in should call the Volunteer Center at 466-4995, or message 506-466-8528.

Linton said donations of cash, gift cards, and grocery items are still being accepted, and people who want to donate can call the above numbers to make arrangements. For safe cash donations, Linton encourages people to use e-transfer by emailing volunteercentre1982@hotmail.com. You can also send regular mail to the Volunteer Center at PO Box 271, St. Stephen, NB, E3L 5M2.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca