By Geraldine Collins with contributions from Janer Mercier, Marie O’Neil, Adeline Hendel
Before there was the “Food Bank”
The compassion of our parishioners was evident in that they saw people and families in need and supported them with food provided out of their own resources.
The food bank as a more formal entity evolved out of this service to the poor.
Its beginnings were humble indeed:
The Vermilion Community Food Bank began with a box!
Gladys Herzog set up a donation box in the back of the church and established an agreement with Cruther’s trucking company to pick up the food on a regular basis and deliver it to Edmonton.
Sr. Adele, a local Sister of Charity of Our Lady of Evron who had a knack for helping people ‘get back on their feet’, saw a need for the food to be used locally and proposed that the food stay here.
Sr. Adele and her fellow sisters then began distributing it to those in need in the Vermilion area.
Adeline Hendel served as the food bank coordinator for a good ten years, following in the footsteps of Betty Ganton.
Adeline and Marie O’Neil would shop for items as they saw fit and as the food bank could afford.
Each Friday morning at 10:00 am Adeline would stop by the Co-Op and pick up any bread they had to donate.
The food bank operated with one Friday afternoon shift from 1 to 3 pm.
Volunteers ‘shopped’ for items from the cupboards as they saw fit for the individual or family they were serving.
Flour, rice, sugar and oatmeal were purchased in large quantities and portioned out into donated containers.
If there was too much leftover bread to fit in their small freezer, Adeline would hand-deliver it to families she knew were in need.
In December, extra donations meant food was stored and sorted in the parish basement by Marie and Adeline and hauled upstairs by willing men as needed.
Marie stated that they were “not too strict” in who they served, and that patrons were allowed to visit every two weeks.
Adeline frequently provided the volunteers with homemade baking, and this was served with coffee and tea when there was a lull in service. Fr. Adam Deren loved to join everyone for coffee, and any leftover treats would be sent home with him!
Derek and Geraldine Collins took over the management of the food bank in July of 2014 when Fr. Roger Rouleau was pastor.
Fr. Roger Rouleau established the food bank as an Apostolate of the Parish.
A downturn in the economy in the fall of 2015 saw a marked increase in demand, and so a morning shift was added to prepare standardized hampers and to prepare the hall and the foyer for service.
A Food Bank Board was established in the fall of 2016, largely to oversee the increase in donations and purchasing.
New cupboards were added to the parish hall in the spring of 2019, making food storage and handling much more convenient.
As of the fall of 2019, the food bank operates with over 25 volunteers and serves an average of 18 hampers a week.
The service area has been more well defined in coordination with other nearby food banks.