St. Stephen – For many people, times are tough normally. Add a pandemic, and those who were already having difficulties making ends meet found themselves in a much more dire predicament, unable to afford the basic essentials, including groceries. But, in the Town of St. Stephen, no one is ever alone, and there is always help to be found. Those who were unable to afford groceries or who couldn’t get to grocery stores because they were unable to find transportation were able to receive support in the way of food items from the Volunteer Center of Charlotte County Food Bank. Clients, both new and old, were able to feed their families, and this is why they nominated the food bank for The Saint Croix Courier Shine On award.
Volunteer Centre Coordinator Donna Linton said she will never forget March 15, which she calls, “ground zero”. She said she came in on Monday with only half of her regular staff there, and absolutely none of the older volunteers. It was interesting, to say the least, figuring out how they would be able to continue helping the community, but Linton and two newer volunteers stepped up to the plate and made things work.
“We had to stop all regular volunteers,” said Linton. “I have to say, these two heroes stepped up to the plate. They came in, day in and day out, full time hours, for about three weeks. During that time, we went from client choice to packing hampers. These two were new to the whole system, so they had to learn to load and unload the freezers, pack the shelves, pack the hampers.”
Due to health issues, the person who usually holds the administrative position had to take a leave of absence. During the time she was out, a volunteer stepped up and was hired to take on those responsibilities.
“One of our younger volunteers stayed on and we ended up being able to pay her,” said Linton. “She took over the admin position, because we had one staff member who was out for 7 weeks. Fortunately, we didn’t have to discontinue her pay. She’s happily received pay, and now she’s back.”
Like all other businesses, the Volunteer Centre had to follow COVID-19 protocols as set forth by the Province of New Brunswick. Linton said they received donations of masks from various sources, including Abby Pond, and all staff members and volunteers are required to wear them when they are unable to maintain social distancing. There is a sign in the entryway advising clients to wash their hands upon entering the building, and gloves are always worn by staff and volunteers when handling food and packing hampers.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Linton said they had to discontinue selling clothing and other items through their Frugal store, which was located in the Volunteer Centre building. She said they got rid of all of the clothing, which amounted to about six racks full, along with a room filled with other miscellaneous items. They are currently not accepting any clothing donations, but there are items they do need if people wish to donate.
“We moved it to the basement, and donated a lot of it to other organizations,” said Linton. “We are looking at some online things very soon. We’re not accepting any clothing donations at this time, which is sad for those who want to donate. The only items we have been accepting is clean, new bedding, towels, and just basic dishes, mugs, and plates, because those are things that people tend to need these on an ongoing basis.”
Linton said she is thrilled the Volunteer Centre was nominated for the Shine On award, and added the food bank is always there when anyone needs help, whether they are current clients or if they have never been to a food bank before.