Pelham Cares prepares

Volunteer Jacintha Langlais examines the expiration date on a box before determining where it should go in Pelham Cares’ vast storeroom. VOICE PHOTO

Annual food drive coming on December 2

BY VOICE STAFF

Last Friday morning Pelham Cares’ Highway 20 headquarters had its garage door open and a whole group of people were shuffling in and out, carrying boxes of food. Inside, one of the centre’s two employees, Lori Grande, was bustling around, too. “Friday is our busiest day of the week,” said Grande. “It’s pick-up day for the hampers, so all of the families stop by this morning.”

Grande returned to her office, where she was busy preparing for Pelham Cares’ upcoming food drive on December 2.

“This is really the biggest event of the year,” she said. “It’s the time when we get enough supplies to last for a long time.”

On the day of the drive, 200 volunteers will go door-to-door in the developed areas of Pelham, collecting boxes and bags of non-perishable foods. (Residents of rural areas may drop off donations at Century 21, Clare’s Cycles, Meridian Credit Union, North Pelham Avondale, Star Tile, Pelham Cares, Rice Road Greenhouses, or either Lions’ Hall on December 2 only.)

“We have another eighty volunteers who sort the food on the day of,” said Grande. “They put all similar food together to be boxed, and then try to have it arranged by expiration date, too. We don’t have the ability to weigh how much food comes in, but it’s thousands and thousands of pounds,” she said.

In the days after the drive, the food will be brought to Pelham Cares’ office, where it will be stored in the basement and further organized. Grande spoke of how Pelham Cares’ current location—which was formerly The Wine Garden—makes this process substantially easier.

“Before, we were in the old Donut Diner, which wasn’t built to be a food bank. Neither was this place, but it has a garage where we can unload the food, and it has this elevator lift that was used for wine that we can bring food up and down with.”

Grande rose from her desk and walked out into the main floor storeroom, where volunteers were busy packing hampers that were being collected. She gestured to the food on the shelves that lined the walls.

“We’re running a little low up here right now—we’ll be bringing more food up from downstairs, where we’re trying to make space because we know how much will be coming in soon.”

At Christmas time, Pelham Cares puts together a special hamper for its families with all of the ingredients for a Christmas dinner, and has included cranberry sauce on its list of most needed items.

“We’re hoping to receive a lot of jam, canned fruit, and salmon. Not tuna though,” said Grande. “We’ve got a lot of that. And pasta too. We have so much pasta that we’ve been giving some away to Welland Hope.”

Grande went into the office’s small entrance hall and turned down a set of steep steps. Once in the basement, she pointed to the ceiling.

“This is the apartment above us,” she said. “We own the entire building, and renting out part of it helps with the mortgage.”

The basement under the apartment is made up of a series of small rooms, and each one was filled to a varying degree with donations. Grande poked her head in one small room of toys, saying that Pelham Cares’ families can come in and pick out a toy when children have birthdays.

“This is the cereal room,” she said, walking past a shelf stacked with Cheerios. “After December 2, there’ll be so much cereal in here that you won’t be able to move.”

Grande continued walking along until she reached a large, cavernous storage area where a woman was sorting through cans of soup.

“This is Jacintha Langlais here,” said Grande. “She has a bit of a wrist injury, so she hasn’t been in as much. But she used to volunteer nearly every day.”

“For four months after the food drive, I’ll be in pretty much every day,” said Langlais. She went back to bustling about, and Grande walked along a row of pasta before reaching the peanut butter at the end. There were several boxes full of jars of various colours. Grande turned her attention to the side of one of the boxes, where there were four jars of jam.

“Look at all the peanut butter we have,” she said. “We can always use more of it, but it would be nice to have some jam now, too.” Langlais passed by and put a can on a nearby shelf. “What sorts of things are we running low on?” Grande asked her.

“Instant coffee,” said Langlais. “Tea, too—Orange Pekoe black tea goes quickly. Juice for kids’ lunches, we don’t have much of that left. And canned fruit.”

Grande nodded. “Yes, fresh fruit becomes very expensive in the winter, so we like to have a lot of canned fruit available.”

“We definitely don’t need pasta,” Langlais said. “We have enough pasta and pasta sauce to last the next two or three years.”

“And there’ll be more coming in, I’m sure,” added Grande, laughing. Once Langlais had taken on another box of food, Grande left the room and went back up the stairs. By then, the rush was over and the garage door had been closed. But volunteers still moved around the floor, checking off lists and carrying food.

“We’re hoping for a big year,” said Grande. “And we want to make sure that people put out food early, too. Eleven o’clock is too late!”

As ever, Pelham Cares is welcoming new volunteers to assist in the effort. For every preference there is a task to be done, as the organization invites residents to help with door-to-door collection of food, sorting, or the boxing and transporting of food. Those interested may contact Pelham Cares by phone at 905-892-5300, or via email at [email protected] A list of most needed items can be found at pelhamcares.org.

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