© Ashley Thompson
Co-ordinator Jo Hazel and grocery manager Heather McInnes are two of many volunteers working away at getting the Hantsport & Area Community Food Bank ready for its reopening in February.
The Hantsport & Area Community Food Bank is staying put.
The new owner of the former Just Us! Coffee Roasters warehouse on William Street is allowing the food bank to continue renting rooms within the building.
The future of the food bank appeared to be up in the air for a short time following the sale of the warehouse in December, when it was unclear how much space the new owner of the building would need to start a convenience store and café.
The food bank provided clients with extra food and vouchers in mid-December before closing the doors until the housing dilemma was resolved. Volunteers have since been renovating a few unoccupied rooms in the opposite end of the warehouse in preparation of the reopening of the food bank on Feb. 13.
Brian Bishop, the food bank’s spokesperson, says Just Us! Coffee provided the non-profit organization with a $1,400 donation to cover the renovations necessary to get the food bank up and running again.
Bishop says he hopes elected officials will one day vote in favour of allowing the society managing the food bank, serving communities spanning from Avonport to Mount Denson, to construct a permanent home on a donated parcel of municipally-owned, tax-free land.
“Our long-term goal is to build our own building,” he said.
Bishop says the rough patch the food bank endured in December compelled several enthusiastic new volunteers to lend a hand.
“We are now going to a team approach instead of so much falling on the shoulders of the co-ordinator,” he said.
“I think that in some ways it forced us to look at some of the things that needed to be changed, it brought new blood into the organization and it has set us on a path.”
In light of the news that the food bank’s co-ordinator, Shirley Bishop, was retiring Dec. 31, Jo Hazel, a former Minas Basin Pulp and Power employee forced into early retirement by the mill’s closure, decided to use her new-found free time to give back to her community.
“It was like they dropped these people down from Heaven.” Shirley Bishop
“I had said that when I retired in another year and a half anyway I wanted to volunteer at the food bank, so this was the opportunity for me to do my food bank thing,” Hazel said.
With some friendly coaxing, and a promise that the responsibilities Shirley Bishop took on would now be divided between numerous individuals, Hazel eventually accepted the position of co-ordinator.
“When she kind of came and told me that I wouldn’t have to do everything that she has done over the past 12 years, it sounded better,” Hazel joked.
Heather McInnes, a Scotiabank retiree, volunteered to be the food bank’s “bargain hunter,” or grocery manager.
“I’ve been blessed, so I want to do something to help,” the volunteer said.
“Somebody was looking for help and I had the time and a little bit of the get up and go still in me.”
Along with Hazel and McInnes, Elaine Harvey is the food bank’s assistant co-ordinator, Chris Fry is inventory manager, Linda Oickle is the food safety officer and Beth Caldwell is treasurer.
Shirley Bishop, who, along with her husband, Brian, is now focusing on the communications and education side of the food bank operations, said she couldn’t have asked for a better group of volunteers.
“It was like they dropped these people down from Heaven.”
To contact the food bank for assistance, call (902) 352-3002.