The circle of food bank executive members, volunteers, cheque writers and well-wishers gathered to officially celebrate the start of construction on a new facility for the Columbia Valley Food Bank (CVFB) last week.
The small but enthusiastic crowd was brimming with excitement as they clustered around the soon-to-be broken ground behind the Summit Youth Hub. The grass was green for a few short minutes following the official sod turning, then actual construction work got underway as the digger eagerly clawed at the ground for the foundation of the new facility.
The current food bank, located in the basement of the Summit Youth Hub, is no more than 700 square feet total. Thanks to the generosity of Valley residents, it is regularly well-stocked; the downside is there is simply nowhere to put it all. Food bank volunteers creatively stack, store, and stash food. There is only one entrance to the facility down a concrete flight of stairs, making it a challenge for parents with strollers and people with accessibility issues to enter. There are no windows, no emergency exit, and no possibility of expansion within the building. So a couple of years ago, food bank volunteers began dreaming big.
“The board considered a number of options to obtain a more suitable facility: renting a space, buying a space, and eventually, with great support from the District of Invermere (DOI), decided on building a facility on their property,” said CVFB executive director Lawrie Mack.
“It’s fantastic; it’s a great day here,” remarked Mayor Al Miller at the ceremony on Wednesday, May 22nd. Mayor Miller spoke of the high value of the food bank within the community.
“It’s a safety net for those who run into some harder times,” he said, adding a service like this helps those who often only need help for a little while, then those people in turn can help others as they are able. He praised the hard-working volunteers and commented that this facility will be good for volunteers and clients who need CVFB services.
The DOI worked with the food bank executive to come up with a plan for a new facility, and Home Hardware volunteered time to draw up the plans. The new L-shaped building, with 1,550 square feet on both floors, will include wheelchair access. One side of the building will include a garage door to make large shipments easy to unload. There will be interior and exterior stairs leading to the basement, which will be unfinished and is planned for storage use. There will be washrooms, a security system, and even new refrigerators: “enough refrigerators that we can likely move to more gleaning” in the future, speculated Mr. Mack.
Project manager Ken Willimont estimates the building will take three and a half to four months to complete, with a mid-September opening expected. The new facility will cost approximately $400,000. To date, the food bank has
received $230,000 in grants and donations directed towards the building.
In 2012, local rancher Albert Cooper died, leaving $723,000 of his estate to the food bank. That money was invested, with interest from the investment being a major sustaining force for the food bank, alongside regular donations, Mr. Mack explained.
“We hope to get about $70,000 more to bring our net cost down to $100,000, thus allowing us to keep a significant fund for investing… to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the CVFB,” explained Mr. Mack.
To commemorate Mr. Cooper’s investment in the CVFB, the new building will be named in his honour.