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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Four local food banks each get $20k boost, thanks to Essex Region Goodfellows

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Photo submitted by Wendy Pulleyblank-Cunningham.

Volunteers with the Essex Area Food Bank, the Essex Salvation Army, and the St. Vince de Paul Chapters of Harrow and McGregor can breathe a little easier as they prepare to assist local families and individuals facing economic hardships heading into the holiday season.

  Thanks to the support of many community partners, the Essex Region Goodfellows was able to forward an impressive $20,000 to each of the four food banks, after hosting its 2023 Newspaper and Corporate Donation Campaigns. The donation was made during its Annual General Meeting, held at Essex Fire Station #1 last Tuesday evening

  This broke last year’s record donation of $15,000, which was subsequently followed up with an additional donation in June of $6,000, thanks to funds continuing to roll in.

  Considering the Town of Essex has a population of around 21,000 individuals, Essex Region Goodfellows Chairperson, Richard Meloche, was thrilled with how the community donated so generously, especially considering the current economic climate.

  On November 17 and 18, Firefighters with Essex Fire & Rescue carefully manned busy intersections throughout the municipality to collect donations. Meloche said these professionals not only help to provide confidence in the program with their respected position in the community, their dedication helps to raise the bar higher every year.

  In addition, members of Essex and Maidstone Knights of Columbus Councils, the Essex 73s, and an array of volunteers also supported the program by collecting donations from around the community at various businesses. Their commitment is critical to the success of the program, he added.

  Knowing the four local food banks need support, due to increase in demand on their services, Meloche was pleased with the outcome and hopes the funds will go a long way in helping them serve local individuals and families facing economic hardships this holiday season.

  The donations typically help the food banks put together Christmas hampers or baskets for their clients, filled with items needed to have a holiday meal.

  Major Jim Hann was thrilled to learn of this year’s donation, noting it will go a long way in supporting those the Essex Salvation Army assists through its food bank.

  He noted it has been a busy year, with the Essex Salvation Army spending around $54,000 over the past 12 months on groceries.

  He was grateful to the community for the support.

  Volunteer with the Essex Area Food Bank, Lonnie Jones, said he was pleasantly shocked when he learned of the amount donated.

  “It’s amazing, he said, noting the support from the small community is always unwavering. “There is so much need.”

  Over the past eight-months, Jones said demand on the food bank has continued to increase, with many of those individuals being seniors.

  Going to the grocery store to purchase his own food, Jones said he is shocked at the increase in prices. With that in mind, in addition to the rising cost of housing, he said the Board of Directors for the Essex Area Food Bank may consider adjusting the requirement to access help at the local food distribution operation, hoping to help provide relief to more individuals.

  He said the Essex Area Food Bank’s year-end shows it bought more items to be able to give out to its clients, however, donations continue to roll in, allowing its reps to help those in need.

  “Every time we have a challenge, the community meets it and gives us more,” he said.

  Right now, the Essex Area Food Bank – located in the gymnasium at Essex United Church – is in need of cereals. Donations of non-perishable items can be dropped off anytime at its receiving area. Monetary donations can be dropped off when it is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8:30-11:45am.   

  Those who missed out on being able to give a donation through the Essex Region Goodfellows Newspaper or Corporate Donation campaigns, but would like to contribute, can reach out to Meloche via social media or call 226-724-2121 to make a donation. It is hoped by collecting additional funds, another donation will be made to the four local food banks in the spring.

  In addition, the Essex Region Goodfellows is hosting its fourth annual 50/50 draw. 2,000 tickets have been printed, meaning if all tickets are sold the winner could take home potentially $10,000.

  This year’s winning ticket will be drawn on December 31st. 

Those interested can reach out to him.

  Back in July, Jones approached Essex Council to note the local food distribution service is in desperate need of a new home, after 35-years of feeding families facing economic hardships.

  It is estimated it will need to find a new location within the next year to year-and-a-half.

  He made two requests of Council that night, meant to help the Food Bank better find a new location. The first was to change the by-law that restricts the food bank from being located in the business core. The second was to direct Town staff to examine Town-owned facilities where a building can be developed to host the Food Bank. They then could find a way to pay for the new build and then maintain it.

  At the time, Council moved to have administration report back to Council on the option to build a facility that could be designed to meet their needs, and provide details on the by-law and when it was created.

  Jones is looking forward to hearing back from the Town.

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