By Michelle Pucci
The Holy Name of Jesus Food Bank was born with the founding of the church itself 50 years ago, and has struggled to thrive ever since.
Working with the non-profit AGAPE organization in Laval, the food bank serves 223 families and people on welfare and with the help of a few volunteers, put together and delivered 40 Christmas baskets last Friday.
What started as the legacy of the Laval church’s pastor, Father John Colford has continued to work based solely on the support and donations of parishioners.
“Father Colford was alone, but he would still help. You could knock on that door and he’d come down and give you food,” said Dan Reed, the food banks director for the last five years.
Even now, he says, the food bank team is small and resources are very limited.
“Contrary to popular opinion, we buy our own food,” he said. “Unfortunately stores and schools and businesses are not giving like they used to and are judicious, they don’t like to give to churches.”
While volunteers pack boxes in the main communal room, Carolyn De Luca, another volunteer, calls to let people know they will receive a Christmas basket delivery. She says she fell out of the habit volunteering over the years, since working occasionally at her old parish as child with her mother.
“If I can make a few phone calls it’s the least I can do,” De Luca said.
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Reed admits the food they give is not enough. The bank can only afford several items per person bi-weekly during the year—the annual Christmas baskets, at least, are overflowing with nonperishables.
To be sure the system is not abused; Reed coordinates his lists with Agape, but says the church doesn’t discriminate based on religion.
“Some of them are not Catholic, they come because they realize that they’re not just a number with us, they reach out to us, they know that they can talk to us, that we’re here for them,” Reed said, explaining that a few have even sought counselling, started attending mass and converted.
Others are regular parishioners.
“They’re sitting next to you in church and they don’t want you to know that they’re really in need,” he said.
The food bank relies solely on donations made to a separate box for food bank, as well as support from the church’s seniors’ group, and Faith First program.
“Anybody in the community has to be introspective, not just at Christmas, not just when an appeal goes out or somebody knocks on the door, but every day,” Reed said.