A Community Steps Up: Orangeville Food Bank

When the pandemic caused a spike in need, executive director Heather Hayes and a small army of staff and volunteers worked overtime.

November 24, 2020 | | Local Heroes

As the coronavirus pandemic set in and shuttered businesses laid off staff, community food banks saw a surge in demand. “Normally we support about 700 people a month,” said Heather Hayes, executive director of the Orangeville Food Bank. “There was a huge spike in March and April, up to 900.”

Demand settled down when the federal government introduced income support programs, said Heather, but it rose again as the second wave took hold. Food banks expect the uptick to continue for at least a year as individuals and families exhaust their financial resources.

Some of the Orangeville Food Bank staff and volunteers, from left to right : Pam Vender, Laura Jotham, Claudette Riechart, Andrea Thomas, Heather Hayes, Jennifer Sinclair-Webb, Diana Engel, Gary Malone, Trevor Lewis, Vickie Lewis, Deanne Mount, Cathy Wilson and Steve White. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Some of the Orangeville Food Bank staff and volunteers, from left to right : Pam Vender, Laura Jotham, Claudette Riechart, Andrea Thomas, Heather Hayes, Jennifer Sinclair-Webb, Diana Engel, Gary Malone, Trevor Lewis, Vickie Lewis, Deanne Mount, Cathy Wilson and Steve White. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Because of the pandemic, the food bank advised volunteers older than 70 and those with pre-existing health conditions to stay home. But as these at-risk volunteers stepped back, the community stepped up. The food bank’s list of volunteers swelled by about 50 per cent to roughly 130 people – with more waiting in the wings. Every day these volunteers break down larger donations, sorting and shelving, lifting more than 30,000 pounds a month. They also fill clients’ orders, preparing them for delivery or walk- and drive-through pickup.

When restaurants and caterers were closed in March, many of them redirected their inventory to food banks. Donations included such things as fresh chicken that had to be cooked right away. “Local caterers and restaurants made butter chicken, pot pies, all kinds of great things,” said Heather. “We also expanded hamper delivery to seniors’ apartments.” In one case, a woman came out onto her balcony in tears, grateful for the fresh vegetables she had been unable to go out and get on her own.

With the goal of limiting the spread of Covid by distributing food at centralized locations, the Orangeville Food Bank joined forces with other local food programs to form Dufferin Food Share. This initiative was up and running at just about the same time as the Orangeville Food Bank was taking possession of its new building, which needed extensive renovations.

For some time the food bank had been hoping to buy a building to replace its cramped Centennial Road quarters. When the right building came up for sale on nearby Commerce Road, the decision was made to take the plunge.

And once again, the community stepped up. Resources that had been gathered and stored at Centennial Road were temporarily shifted to the Salvation Army’s New Hope Community Church on Riddell Road.

In the meantime, local trades and companies volunteered to get the new building in shape. They put up walls, gravelled the driveway, and installed wiring, plumbing, a walk-in freezer, coolers and an emergency generator. Volunteers sanded, painted, and more – while not skipping a beat in their mandate to provide food to those in need. Then, once the new quarters were ready, everything was moved again.

For years, Heather has witnessed the generosity of the community, but this year her gratitude is overwhelming. “When you pick up the phone in this community, no matter who you call, the answer is always ‘What can we do to help?’” she said. No hesitation. No hemming and hawing. Just yes.

Orangeville Food Bank: One of our 2020 Local Heroes

About the Author More by Tony Reynolds

Tony Reynolds is a freelance writer who lives happily above Broadway in Orangeville.

Related Stories

Local Heroes 2020

Nov 24, 2020 | Tralee Pearce | Local Heroes

A focus on essentials: Profiles of the folks who kept us all going in 2020.

Lena Bruce (left), Dr Charlie Joyce and Darlene Fitzpatrick in front of the Headwaters Health Care Centre Covid-19 assessment centre. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Call of Duty: Headwaters Health Care Centre

Nov 24, 2020 | Jeff Rollings | Local Heroes

Manager Lena Bruce, physician Charlie Joyce and nurse Darlene Fitzpatrick kept Headwaters Health Care Centre’s Covid-19 assessment centre going during the pandemic.

Hailey McLarty and Shyanne Wharton-Haines Ricci (left) organized the June 14 Shelburne Black Lives Matter march. Sisters Seanna (left) and Makenna Thomas (right), were behind the Orangeville march the same day and walked with little sister Emma. Photo by Pete Paterson.

The New Hope: Local Black Lives Matter Organizers

Nov 24, 2020 | Janice Quirt | Local Heroes

These four young women (plus one younger sister) were the moving force behind two crucial local social justice marches – one in Orangeville and one in Shelburne.

Belfountain Public School teacher Wendy Brooker is one of many educators and school staff who worked tirelessly to ensure students could return to school as safely as possible this September. Photo by Karen Dhaliwal.

Class Acts: Our Educators

Nov 24, 2020 | Tralee Pearce | Local Heroes

“At Belfountain Public School and beyond, teachers, principals, custodians and support staff got our kids learning again in classrooms and online.”

Staff and volunteers at Family Transition Place last year, from left to right, back row: Sara Smith, Janice Snow, Janet Taylor, Lynette Pole-Langdon; third row: Travis Greenley, Ashlynne Cameron, Kendra Wassink, Joanne Jordan, Samantha McCabe, Sara Flache, Debbie Cribbis, Diane Vandenberg, Trish Grabb; second row: Femi Oke (on arm of chair), Lyn Allen, Kristy Fearon, Lisa Goodison, Norah Kennedy, Janice Glassford, Andrea Chantree, Laura Moscatiello, Debbie Lahey, Bonnie Waterfield, Donna Buchan, Stephanie Figliomeni; front row: Christina Gonzalez (seated), Kelly Bohonos, Julie Newton, Tiffany McMillan, Courtney Halkett, Cheryl Martin-Goncalves and Keely Horan. Photo by Kelly Lee.

The Need Doesn’t Stop: Family Transition Place

Nov 24, 2020 | Jeff Rollings | Local Heroes

With everyone stuck together at home during the pandemic, conflicts escalated and this team went into high gear to help new clients.

Foreground: Kurt and Donni Geiser with son and store manager Matthew. Background, from left: Massimo Policciardi, Morgan Innis, Renata Kolaric-Blas, Brenda Brook, Ron Persaud, Cassidy Sandru, Mitchell Greenham, Josh Inglis, Brenda Cordon, Linda Widdes, Cecilia Navarro, Kait Laurenza, Julie James, Maddie Belfry and Erik Rasmussen. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Keeping Food on our Tables: Grocery Workers

Nov 24, 2020 | Tony Reynolds | Local Heroes

We salute the newly minted essential workers at Foodland in Caledon East and across our region for working overtime in the aisles for us.

Pandemic Journals

Pandemic Journals

Jun 25, 2020 | Tralee Pearce | Pandemic Journals

We thank everyone who shared a glimpse of their lives with us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to vjones@inthehills.ca.