Vital Impact Stories from The County Foundation
SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
Demand at food banks is on the rise. The cost of food is putting individuals and families in a terrible predicament — deciding between paying the bills or putting food on the table.
One in five Canadians experiences some form of food insecurity. That means 3,000 residents of Prince Edward County are not getting enough to eat.
Linda Downey, co-founder of the Wellington & District StoreHouse Foodbank, understands the anxiety and stigma associated with seeking help from a food bank. Years ago, she was a single mother, working multiple jobs and raising two young girls. Pride prevented her from asking for help.
During a difficult Christmas in 1986, Linda realized she had nothing to offer her daughters. Just as hope was fading, a knock came at the door.
A neighbour had secretly nominated her for a Seventh Day Adventists Church gift hamper. A Christmas basket filled with gifts was delivered. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Linda wanted to refuse the help. She insisted there were others more deserving.
Deep down, though, she knew her daughters deserved some of the joy of the holiday season.
In the following years, Linda’s personal promise to “pay it forward” took shape. Together with her husband, Robert, she founded the StoreHouse Food Bank in 2007. Their mission was to support not only families on government assistance but the working poor and those seniors who often struggle alone and in silence. Regionally the number of seniors visiting food banks has doubled due to the rising cost of living.
Linda sought to create a safe space where everyone felt welcome — and unashamed. Over time, she recognized the need to expand the Storehouse’s services beyond just providing food. The organization now offers clothing and household items, school supplies, snowsuits, and hampers filled with Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas essentials and gifts.
Linda also understands the unique challenges faced by seniors, who often find it difficult to ask for help. When the pandemic isolated seniors at home, the hot meal delivery program helped to fill a need.
The StoreHouse Foodbank is a testament to the generosity of the community and the selflessness of countless volunteers. Linda’s commitment to “paying it forward” has created a ripple effect of compassion that extends far beyond the walls of the food bank. A network of support now touches hundreds of lives.
Linda’s story reminds that each act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a world of difference.
Linda eventually wrote to the Seventh Day Adventists Church, to thank them for the gift of the Christmas hamper that had made such a difference. She told them how that act of compassion had shaped her life’s purpose. Her letter arrived at a critical time: the church was considering shutting down its food bank. Linda’s letter told them of the profound impact they had. The church leaders decided to continue their invaluable work.
Anyone can find themselves in need. If you are struggling with food insecurity, there is help.
So, what can we do? As in Linda’s story, one big action we can take is to remove the stigma behind reaching out or needing help. You could also “pay it forward,” and support a local food security program by financial means, food donations, or by rolling up your sleeves and volunteering. You can find such programs at www.pecdata.ca under “food security programs.”
Finally, we need to find ways to support financial stability. Canada has more than enough food to feed everyone. What is driving the need for food banks are growth in precarious employment, lack of affordable housing and insufficient social assistance programs.
Learn more at:
Vital Signs data: www.pecdata.ca
The County Foundation: thecountyfoundation.ca