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Creston Valley Gleaners Continues to “Give Back”

This year 2018 marked the 35th Anniversary of the Creston Gleaners.  In 1980 Food Banks across Canada were just starting to pop up on the horizon.  In 1983, Creston opened its Food Bank.  It was a temporary fix, they said.  And now 35 years later, the demand is ever more dire; the need is monumental. There are 100 Food Banks in BC.

As a community, we are so grateful for the Creston Valley Gleaners.
·         Can you imagine how many tons of garbage we have saved from the landfill over the last 35 years?

·         The Creston Valley Gleaners is the only self-funded Food Bank in Canada.  That means, unlike other communities across Canada, Creston residents do not need to use as much of their time and resources fund raising on behalf of the Food Bank, we simply can donate our good, clean, reusable items which Volunteers sort, price and clean, if necessary, to sell in our stores.        

Gleaners is the place where you can find the dandiest things: old, odd, unusual, ridiculous, 
one-of-a-kind, inexpensive, clean, affordable items generously donated by our community.

·         The Cleaners annual winter coat and boot sale offers inexpensive prices to ensure that every child and adult will be warm throughout the winter months.

·         Why should we be grateful for the Gleaners?  Because we give back totally to our community, first and foremost to the Food Bank and then to numerous other non-profit organizations, assisting the very young to the elderly throughout the valley.

The Creston Food Bank started when three concerned, caring women recognized the need to help support some of their neighbours.  They asked local farmers and orchardists for their surplus.  And, could also themselves be found gleaning from the fields to stock the shelves.  From these humble beginnings, so many years ago, we continue to care for our neighbours in need.

Currently, we serve an average of 300 plus hampers per month.  A few are here to help those on a short-term basis, while others are long term users: single people, elderly, and young working families.  Clients are welcome to visit the food bank twice per month.  They select from a list of items what they would prefer in their hamper.  Besides the numerous non-perishable items, they also receive a loaf of bread, meat, eggs, butter, potatoes, carrots, onions, cheese and yogurt when available.  They may also select 4-5 other items from our miscellaneous shelves. 

Our Food Bank cost varies from year to year, but with due diligence; shopping for the best price etc. our total cost this year is approximately $66,000.00, with some years being a high as $100,000.00.  Did you know that for every dollar donation, we can triple its value by our purchasing in bulk?  For example, we were able to purchase a pallet of salmon for $.78 cents per can. It would cost at least $3.00 for an individual to donate a single can of salmon.
Six years ago, to lower our Food Bank expense, we initiated the “Gleaners and Friends” program.  Because, we are a food bank, we were eligible for shipments of reclamation dry goods from big box stores.  We receive anywhere from 10-12 pallets of food, toiletries, etcetera per shipment.  Our commitment is paying for the cost of shipping.  This program has allowed us to lower our Food Bank costs, provide more variety for our recipients and supports numerous other agencies (25+) who try to provide nutritional meals/snacks for their clients. We receive approximately 8 loads per year.  This year we did not have a shipment from the end of May until the first part of November for several reasons.  As a result, we had representatives from various programs calling to ask if we had forgotten about them.

In 2002, after our new facility at Gleaners One was constructed and additions made, we began to have surplus in the bank. Thus, we began making our first Disbursements back to our community.  That donation of $550 went to help fund the United Church Wednesday lunch program and the Ministerial Association. 

We are only allowed to assist non-profit organizations and over the years have supported programs for the elderly such as TAPS, to publicly funded day cares, to breakfast/lunch programs for our students.  We have given $7000 annually for bursaries to PCSS and the College of the Rockies; seed monies for both our housing projects at Legacy Place and Spectrum Farms.

On an annual basis, we generously support (to mention just a few) …Creston Valley Hospice, Creston Valley Hospital, Therapeutic Riding, and Boys and Girls retreat, as well as numerous one-time requests.

For example, at the high school we have supported programs such as an exchange student program, heart rate monitors, snowshoes for fun and fitness, Weight lifting club equipment, healthy smoothie breakfast program, student services clinic and most recently the camera club.  We have also been very supportive of the young students at Canyon/Lister School Be the Change movement, who have attended workshops in both Calgary and Vancouver.  The WE DAY concert is an event sponsored by Free the Children, a humanitarian organization focusing on inspiring and empowering children to create positive change, locally, nationally, and globally.  Students are invited to attend the concert, only receiving tickets by completing various acts of change which focus on caring for others, their environment and endangered species.

Some of their various projects have been: Hallowe’en Scare the Hunger project, where they collected non-perishable food items for our food bank.  They raised $2000 to help build a school in Ethiopia.  The students organized a variety of fund-raising events which supported their efforts to purchase clean water access, education kits, and farm animal bundles for children and families living in developing countries, just to name a few.  There are only 3 WE Conferences in Canada each year, Toronto, Calgary or Edmonton and Vancouver.  Each concert is attended by hundreds of kids.

We are exceptionally proud of these young students as this year they were spotlighted; brought up on stage and recognized for all their local and international initiatives. We must remember that in comparison to other schools Canyon/Lister is a small school.  CONGRATUATIONS, students and teachers, what an example you are setting!
Our most recent request for funding was from the Soup Kitchen that started in September at Holy Cross Catholic Church.

In this our 35th year of operation, we not only own our buildings and fund our Food Bank; we have now surpassed the ONE MILLION dollar mark of giving back to the community.
Over these years…time, opportunities, issues, misfortunes, and difficulties have taught us to be strong, resilient and working as a team to better the lives of others.  We have become leaders, setting a standard of excellence for other food banks in the interior and recognized for our success by the parent organization, Food Banks BC.

Thanks to our General Manager, George Goulder, for his leadership, integrity, and commitment, we have a manager who encourages us to work smarter not harder.  He is constantly price checking, bartering to make it a better price, and searching for ways to improve what we do, as well as saving our energy consumption.  In April, he became aware of a grant available from Food Banks BC.  He took the initiative, filled out the lengthy application forms and applied on our behalf for a walk-in freezer, walk-in refrigerator and side by side glass door refrigerator.  In September, we learned that our application had been approved.  Then the physical work began to remodel the existing Food Bank space, clean, paint, and move racking units, all the while coordinating a contractor and working around the Food Bank operational hours.  We now have a “state of the art” food bank where our Food Bank team works smarter, not harder and we save energy.  We are grateful to Food Banks BC and to George for all his work.

So, what are some of our concerns and issues?
One of our on-going concerns is the garbage we receive.  Some people assume that we do not have to pay dumping fees; other people think that we can sell any old broken or dirty items; others simply do not care.  While more and more donations are clean and in good condition, some days it is very sad as to the filthy things we must deal with.  Those days we really feel “dumped on”.

Due to unwanted drop-offs, theft, incidents like a runaway vehicle and minor accidents, we have finally decided to install a monitor camera at G Too.  This year our dump fees were approximately $20,000.00.   That Twenty thousand dollars could have gone to our hospital which would have benefited all citizens of Creston.

Another concern is that, although we are 100 volunteers strong, we are an aging volunteer base.  It is my guess that the average age of our dedicated volunteers is 70 plus.  Our energy level is not what it once was, it takes longer to get things done, even though we are experienced and have learned to work smarter.  We are in constant need of younger volunteers, whose backs are strong, who have innovative ideas and have the time to help share the load.  If you know of someone who is looking for some meaningful volunteer work please invite them to come and tour our amazing facility.  And if motivated to help, fill in an application form.  We must think…. If not me, who? If not now, when?