By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The warm fellowship of a shared meal can have a positive ripple effect for the whole community.
That’s the aim of the new Coventry Relief Kitchen project taking shape in Colborne – a fundraiser for which happens on Saturday in the form of a barbecue and open house at the Colborne Pentecostal Church at 89 Division St. (just across from the Keeler Centre).
Interviewed recently, volunteer Bill Huras described the project and the inspiration behind it.
The project began in January, he said, largely thanks to the efforts of Joehanna Hill. It builds on a program at Prospect Church, which not only has a food bank but offers soup and sandwiches Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Coventry project will offer full dinners – two days a week to start – from 3 to 7 p.m.
Huras described the need in the community, especially among three groups – seniors, the unemployed and the homeless.
Seniors suffered badly from the isolation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. More than ever, they need a place to go where a warm welcome is assured, whether they come to help prep the food or just to enjoy the dinner. And a family struggling with its budget cannot afford to drop $60 for dinner at McDonald’s, he added, but they can drop in and treat the kids to a hot dog or hamburger with their neighbours (and give mom a break).
Speaking of breaks, they got a great one when they found Pastor Sid Benson at Colborne Pentecostal Church. Their basement was not being used, so he gave them the space and even rolled up his sleeves to help adapt it to the project.
“We ripped out the whole kitchen, changed the cupboards, worked it all around to meet the health standards, the flooring that’s required,” Huras recalled.
Finishing the kitchen according to regulations is what he calls “the big hinge” right now. For example, four regulation sinks are required.
“Those things are a crazy price,” he said.
They got a half-price deal on the countertops from Humanitarian Services in Belleville. They got a lot of volunteer help with things like the electrical and plumbing work. And when the Trenton Odd Fellows closed, they got a number of items (like pots and pans) from their kitchen, as well as a kitchen stove, 50 chairs and 10 tables.
They have had donations of two freezers, a fridge, a gas oven and a dishwasher, as well as a couple of dehumidifiers. Accessibility accommodations are proceeding and, thanks to the Odd Fellows’ inventory of assistive equipment, there will always be a few wheelchairs, walkers and canes on site. Huron invites anyone who has something to donate to call him at 905-396-3622.
One big purchase yet to come is a $10,000 item – a commercial-grade six-burner commercial stove with oven and a suppression system.
“And because we have people from outside coming in, it will cost $1,000 a year for $2-million in liability insurance,” he added.
Obviously, fundraising is a key focus.
Though they plan to operate as a non-profit charitable organization, they must run the project very much as a business in order to do such things as apply for grants. But they are already out and about drumming up support.
“I have been door-to-door to 32 shops asking for donations,” Huras said.
They were delighted to hear they can expect a $1,000 donation from the Colborne Legion, with $500 coming from the Cobourg Odd Fellows (of which Huras is a member). And Cramahe Township is covering their costs, like plumbing fees and such associated costs, which has saved them almost $1,000.
“Colborne Dental gave $500 yesterday, Aquatech gave $250, and there are the people who hand me $20 or $50,” he listed.
It all adds up to almost $4,000 raised to date.
Huras is looking ahead to garnering volunteers as well, approaching eight churches within 30 miles to make presentations, and encouraging anyone interested to give him a call (that number, again, is 905-396-3622).
And as eager as Hill was to get this project rolling, the Foodland fire put her into an even higher gear as she thought of the people who can’t drive, the people with disabilities, the many who relied on having easy access to a grocery store and have lost that. And some sources they are hearing from indicate that rebuilding or reopening the store might be as much as two years in the future.
Even this early in the year, they have had two yard sales and raised more than $1,000, in spite of the wet weather both weekends.
Two weeks ago they had a free barbecue. They ended up serving 150 hamburgers and 100 hot dogs to more than 80 people, and raised $600 from donations.
“The biggest advertisement in a small town is word-of-mouth,” Huras said – that and the sign he put up in the Tim Hortons advertising free food.
“They came! They liked the small-town atmosphere of people helping out,” he found.
They’re hoping for a similar success June 24.
“It takes a lot of people to make a village,” he said naming the partners who make the barbecue possible – the Northumberland Food 4 All Warehouse, Barry’s Greenhouse, Rutherford’s roadside market, Kelly’s strawberries, right down to a farmer from his church donating meat.
It’s also an open house this time, offering a chance to see the progress of Coventry Relief Kitchen while you enjoy the hospitality of Pastor Sid and his wife from 3 to 7 p.m. in the church parking lot. Along with the food and fellowship, you can take a moment to look around at the work in progress and see just what a village can do.