The Williams Lake community is given the gift of food year-round by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a group of volunteers with global ties and local dedication.
They distribute free food and clothing on Mondays out of the basement of the Catholic Church, all of which is donated, and also offer a social time where people can have something to eat and drink and enjoy fellowship.
“We offer the gift of food,” explained Darla Robson, president of the Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “We are not a food bank. What we have, we give; we regularly give out bags of food for people to take with them and also do Christmas hampers for families.
“We’ve partnered with the Child Development Centre (CDC) for the hampers and the Yuletide dinner. We handed out 100 Christmas hampers that included food, treats, hygiene kits and more and the CDC provided toys. At the Yuletide dinner with the CDC last year we served about 500 people.”
She noted that the conference is 150 years old in Canada and has been in Williams Lake for seven years. “In 2009 a small group was formed, called Sacred Heart Conference, but people here have been doing this work for 50 years,” she added. “The local group was recognized by the St. Vincent de Paul head office in France two years ago.”
The group of volunteers also serves soup and sandwiches to about 100 people every Sunday in the park. “We buy meat, lettuce and cheese and people donate the bread and ingredients for the soup,” she continued.
“We support Jubilee Care because food is so important to recovery: whatever we have we share with them. We’re talking about cooking a dinner in their kitchen for them at Thanksgiving.”
St. Vincent also does a business appeal program every year to support the food program.
“There’s obviously a need and we’re happy to help. One concern for us is seeing more and more elderly people – some who have been victims of fraud – who are not able to make it. Some who come are working families, maybe lower income on minimum wage; there may be a higher gas bill one month and they can’t buy food,” Robson said.
“People can come as often as they need and no one needs to prove their poverty. It’s a beautiful thing to give, and we see that in the people who come here. Often they’ll go through their food bags and give things back for us to share with someone else. There is giving and caring from both sides.”
She said they always need things like rice, oatmeal, pork and beans, canned meat, macaroni and cheese, soup, ready-to-eat foods, flour, produce, eggs and flour. “We’ll take any clean bedding, shoes, clothing, especially seasonal. We want to keep things free for people who can’t afford to shop at second hand stores,” she added.
“My big dream is a food truck so we can go to people and cook hot meals to feed them.
“There are 800 thousand St. Vincent de Paul members world-wide serving 15 million people,” she said. “I feel like I’m part of a force for good.”
She said they’re always looking for volunteers to help in the park. For more information phone Darla Robson 250-267-6554.