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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
NOTL comes in clutch for Newark Neighbours food drive
Rotary Club president Carol Lipsett, right, drops off a basket of donations at Newark Neighbours as Francyne Chenier and Cindy Grant sort through food. EVAN LOREE
Volunteers Wally Williams and Brian Litke drop off donations at Newark Neighbours. EVAN LOREE

On a snowy Saturday morning, volunteers across Niagara-on-the-Lake braved slushy, slippery streets to pick up food donations from townhomes on behalf of Newark Neighbours.

When Brian Litke and Wally Williams took off from the home of Rod Konik on Line 1 Road in a silver GM Sierra pickup truck, the shelves at Newark Neighbours were still mostly bare.

“With the exception of soup and tuna fish, we had practically nothing,” said Newark Neighbours board chair Cindy Grant the morning of the food drive.

And with almost 120 clients in need of food donations in time for the Easter holiday, Grant was in a pinch.

But then volunteers came pouring into the food bank and the shelves started filling.

“It just makes my heart full,” Grant said in an interview later. “My experience has been that this community always comes through.”

Leading up to the event, only 26 households had registered for a porch pickup.

But by Saturday, that surged to 80.

It took the effort of three community groups, the NOTL Kinsmen Club, Rotary Club and St. Davids Lions Club to bring in the donations. 

Carol Lipsett, president of the NOTL Rotary Club, said they did porch pickups in September as well, hitting about 100 homes for the Thanksgiving food drive.

“We do this as a collaborative, community effort,” Lipsett said.

Working in teams of two, the volunteers disperse across town and pick up donations from households who register for pickups.

“For the sake of our community work, we help out wherever we can,” said Kinsmen treasurer Brian Litke between porch pickups.

“Anytime they need us, we’ll help them out,” he added.

Litke, and fellow volunteer Wally Williams, drove up and down the cul-de-sac of Weatherstone, where they met resident Barbara Brown.

“I always give to Newark Neighbours,” Brown told The Lake Report after handing off her donations to the Kinsmen volunteers.

“It’s hard for people,” she said.

In fact, Newark Neighbours serves about 155 households alone.

And according to Food Banks Canada, food bank usage was up 32 per cent in 2023 relative to 2022.

Food prices also continue to rise in Canada, according to a report from Statistics Canada

While the increase in food prices this past February was lower than it was in January, the report said food prices have gone up 21.6 per cent since February 2021.

Litke said there are a lot of people “struggling away” and “trying to make ends meet.”

It was one of the reasons he volunteered to pick up donations on Saturday, he said.

Back at the food bank, Francyne Chenier, who’s been volunteering with Newark Neighbours for eight years, said she feels a need to give back.

“I’m very fortunate,” she said.

“I have a lot in my life and to see the appreciation in people’s look when we give them the food means a lot to me,” she said.

Ray Hobbs, president of the NOTL Kinsmen Club, said it’s becoming hard to find volunteers, especially in a town with a lower population of young people.

“When you’ve got no younger people in your town, it’s really tough,” he said.

But Grant said volunteers like those at Kinsmen are always quick to step up.

“They’re terrific, terrific people,” she said.

Grant said the food bank received a swell of donations from St. Davids Public School and the NOTL community library Monday.

Thanks to these, the food bank is well above target and able to deliver Easter food hampers to households across NOTL in time for the long weekend.

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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