Like many things, COVID has played a role in how things are operating and functioning this year. At the CSHFB we have seen an increase in people accessing our services, with many of these people using our Food Bank for the first time due to a lost job in the family and sometimes even both partners losing their job. With that being said we are forecasting for one of our busiest holiday seasons yet. We are expecting 1,500 people from Cambridge and North Dumfries to come through our doors to collect a holiday meal.
To meet demand and keep everyone as safe as possible we will be switching how our hampers are usually distributed. In past years we have provided a holiday meal hamper, this year we will be providing a protein (turkey, halal meat) and a grocery gift card with a value based on the number of people in the family.
Now, more than ever, we need support from our community members. You can provide support in three ways;
On Saturday, July 25th from 9:00am-2:00pm Charger Logistics will be hosting a Food Drive-Thru with donations supporting the Cambridge Self-Help Food Drive. Charger Logistics is located at 170 Werlich Drive, Cambridge.
The food drive is non-contact, when it is your turn pull up and pop your trunk.
See the event poster below for a current list of our most needed items. We also accept monetary donations as well as fresh food.
During this pandemic things have been uncertain and changing daily but, one things has stayed the same,how generous this beautiful community is. We continue to see the support and dedication the community has to helping one another and it truly is amazing.
As an essential service we are continuously sanitizing and cleaning our facility to ensure our dedicated staff stay healthy.
We wanted to give a couple reminders on our operations at 54 Ainslie St. S.
Our hours still remain Monday to Friday 12:00PM-4:30PM.
Hampers are designed so you only need to come once a week.
You do not need to provide any paperwork or identification. We ask your name and how many people are in your family.
We will place your hamper on the tables located outside of our front door. You can pick up your hamper from the table, this allows everyone to stay at a safe distance.
Tape has been placed on the sidewalk, use this as a guide to distance yourself.
If you are feeling unwell, have a compromised immune system or feel uncomfortable going out in public, you may have someone pick up a hamper on your behalf.
All programs remain suspended until further notice.
Mike’s Lunch is still operating but as a come-and-go lunch.
Our annual Spring Food & Fund Driveis still running, with one slight change, we have gone virtual! With the current situation we are facing we are seeing an increase in demand at the CSHFB, making this Spring Food & Fund Drive that much more important! If you choose to donate food we ask that you drop the food off at your local grocery store. This allows us to limit the amount of people coming in to our building and limiting the contact we have with other people. If you prefer to donate through a monetary donation we except donations through Canada Helps. Canada Helps is an online platform that allows you to donate through the comfort of your own home. We also can accept monetary donations in the form of a cheque. Cheques can be made out to Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and mailed to 54 Ainslie St. South, Cambridge ON. N1R3K3
Our volunteer program is still suspended at this time. However April 19-25th was National Volunteer Week and we did not forget about you. We weren’t able to celebrate our hardworking and dedicated volunteers like we normally do but we were thinking of you and we can’t wait for the day to see all of your smiling faces again! Without your outstanding commitment we would not be able to provide the programming that we do for the community!
For updates on the status of the CSHFB and the status of our programs, follow us on social media.
From everyone at the CSHFB we send our best wishes to you and those you love. Stay safe.
It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces Cameron Dearlove has chosen to depart as Executive Director of Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, effective February 19, 2020.
Since May 2018 Cameron has played a critical role in the development, modernization, and success of the organization. He has worked tirelessly to provide outstanding support and resources for the Cambridge and North Dumfries community, and while we will miss him and his inspiring leadership, we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.
Over the next few months, we will be conducting a search to find a new Executive Director. During this transition period, Dianne McLeod will continue in the role of Interim Executive Director.
We cannot thank Cameron enough for the dedication, passion, enthusiasm, and motivation he has given the Cambridge Food Bank. He will be greatly missed by the staff, Board, members, and partners alike.
Kindness and generosity come in many different forms in our community. Sometimes, these gifts of the heart are easy to see. We can take a photo with hundreds of pounds of donated food or with a big cheque representing a donation of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, it is easy to miss the everyday kindness that helps make the Cambridge Food Bank so much more than a food bank.
I have a unique role here, as Spiritual Care Provider at the Cambridge Food Bank. I often describe myself as one of the official listeners and watchers. Much of what I watch for is how people are doing. In the midst of people struggling with food insecurity comes a whole host of other complications. When I see, as I often do, times of tremendous kindness and compassionate I want to tell people of my very positive experience. Please accept the two following stories as a gift of pure generosity seen recently at the Food Bank.
The first occasion I saw in the waiting area of the Community Pantry. An elderly gentleman had ask me for an application for the recently announced Dental Program for seniors. Even before I realized that he would need help in reading and filling in the application, the young woman sitting beside him offered to read it to him and fill it in for him. They did not know each other. When realizing that he was going to be helped he thanked her profusely.
The second act of everyday kindness was one that again happened in the reception area. It was a bitterly cold day. I had been speaking with an Indigenous Elder. As we moved to give people more space we realized that we stood next to a woman from the Middle East. My Indigenous friend observed that this woman had no gloves and she had just come in from the cold. Although the woman from the Middle East has very little English my friend took her hands and held them to give them warmth. Then she took her gloves out of her pocket and gave them to the woman. In reflecting back to this experience I realized that I was standing in the presence of an Indigenous Elder, a new Immigrant, and myself, a Settler. The very foundations of Canada. Each one recognizing the great gift of everyday kindness. How blessed we are.
The following message is written by the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank’s Executive Director. It was originally printed in the Cambridge Times, and is a reflection on the spirit of generosity and compassion during the holidays, and throughout the year.
One hundred and seventy-six years ago, Charles Dickens’ wrote his classic story, A Christmas Carol.
In the story he describes Bob Cratchit’s family and in so doing gave us a window into poverty in Victorian England.
Dickens experienced poverty firsthand. At 12 years old he was removed from school to work long days in a blacking factory. Charles’ father, along with his mother and siblings, had been sent to prison, as John Dickens couldn’t pay a debt of £40. Young Charles lived alone, where he worked off his family’s debts.
In 1843, Charles visited a school and saw the state of children in London’s slums. He was so disturbed that he set out to tackle the unfairness, greed, and callousness of London society in A Christmas Carol.
Its lessons remain relevant today.
In the 1980s, when many families were struggling through a devastating economic recession, the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank was formed by Cambridge residents, ensuring their neighbours were nourished — a legacy that lives on today.
This same community formed Out of the Cold, opening up churches for meals, shelter and fellowship. Eventually, this caring community came together to build The Bridges, in the hopes that nobody in Cambridge would be unsheltered.
Over the last few years, increasingly I hear the remark: “This isn’t the Cambridge I once knew.” Sometimes it’s said referring to the growing crises of poverty, homelessness, substance use, and the overall disconnection felt by so many. Often, it’s in reference to a feeling that our Cambridge is not the caring one so many of us knew from our earlier days.
And sometimes I can’t help but agree. Recently I was walking in downtown Galt and saw a man crossing the street in front of me. Not unlike Dickens’ description of Bob Cratchit’s family, his shoes were worn and his clothes provided little protection from the cold. We made eye contact, and both nodded and said hello.
Just at that moment, a vehicle slowed down to yell, “Get a job!” with profanity added for good measure. The man, clearly targeted, yelled back at the vehicle, picked up his pace, and walked on. I also walked on. Indeed, this wasn’t the Cambridge I once knew.
But I also have the good fortune of spending my days at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, where I witness acts of caring, compassion, and generosity on a daily basis.
Not long ago, I had someone visit me at the food bank. It was one of the first cold and rainy days leading into winter. He told me he had been outside for several nights, and the stress of that was written on his face. He pointed to the sole of his shoes falling off, and his wet and cold feet. I thought of Dickens and Cratchit’s family.
We found him dry boots, socks, and snacks. He asked if we had a jacket. I rooted through our clothing room and found a big warm fleece. I asked if that would help, and he said yes, with heartfelt thanks.
Just then, another man approached and asked if we had a jacket, as he too was cold. Before I could answer, the person I’d been helping handed the man the fleece, saying: “Here man, you take it. I’ve got all day to find another one.”
And with that he departed, out into the cool, rainy street outside. This caring, generous man.
In some ways, not much has changed since Dickens’ days. Poverty continues to be present and punishing. But at that moment, I saw that the Cambridge of my childhood has not really changed, when we match poverty with generosity, compassion, and care for our neighbours.
As we approach another season of giving, and the change of the calendar to a new decade, I invite you to envision the Cambridge you want to see, and then take action to create that caring future.
Cameron Dearlove is the Executive Director of the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.
To CSHFB Staff, Volunteers, Supporters, and Members:
I wanted to share with you that today marks exactly one year since I started my role as Executive Director here at the CSHFB. In so many ways it feels so much longer than a year. I know that I’m a changed person from my time here, and I thank you for the part each of you have played in my personal growth and learning.
And of course, I thank you for coming along with me on this journey. It’s been a year of transition, change, and accomplishment:
–Some colleagues and friends we’ve said goodbye to, and so many wonderful new colleagues and friends to learn and be inspired from.
–So much work we have done to make our building brighter, bolder, cleaner, more welcoming, and more efficient, including all of the painting, the beautiful artwork on the walls, the updates to the Community Pantry, the Food Hub, a rebuilt utility deck, and of course the Children’s Wellness Hub – thank you for all of the elbow grease and for everyone who holds the space so dear.
–New projects, such as the Children’s Wellness Hub, Seed Share, and Food Savers; program enhancements such as with the Grandparent’s Group and all of our wonderful peer and nutrition programs like Global Kitchen.
–Some areas didn’t see wholesale change, but continue to make incremental changes to improve the way we serve our community, including improvements to the Food Co-operative.
–Some areas haven’t changed but have seen increased use, including our Kitchen, where more and more people are coming to learn about nutrition and cook and eat together with their neighbours.
–Growth in our social media, which helps us interact more with our community; a new website, and lots of great stories about our work in the media.
I’m sure I have missed many milestones and markers here, and I’m sorry if I left anyone or anything out.
Of course, there have been many challenges in our way. There have been lots of ups and downs, including serving more people who are facing increasingly complex and challenging circumstances. The fact is that our community is changing, and we need to adapt and respond to it.
We also can’t only be responsive; we also need to see the future and see where we want to go as a Food Bank and as an organization.
What leadership can we provide to a community that is struggling, often divided, and feeling uncertain about its future? What message can we send to inspire people to care more for their neighbours; to inspire radical generosity; to open closed hearts? To show our community that more is accomplished through compassion, hospitality, and kindness, than through stigma, generalization, and building walls. I hope messages like the one attached – when you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence – will be concepts we can unite around as we work to not only serve our community, but work towards a better community for all.
Thank you for the welcome, the care, the kindness, and the acceptance you have shown me this last year, and that you show to our community members each and every day. Not every day feels like a good day, I know that; but I also know that each day, each of you makes a positive impact in someone’s life. Please don’t ever lose sight of that.
“If you think we are busy now, just wait until December!”
This is the refrain I heard many times throughout my first few months at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank. While you can expect the holiday season to be a busy time for a food bank, and for many charities for that matter, I could tell that Christmas, and the whole holiday season, was a very special time at the CSHFB.
And what a time it was!
First it was the events.
The parades, with people all along the route handing over food and funds to our many volunteers who were rushing around to collect it all. The CP Holiday Train, with hundreds from our community cheering the incredible donation from CP, and from ACD Foods who brought a truck with 500 turkeys on it. The Forward and Trinity Community Table Christmas dinners, Hespeler Elves, the Deer Ridge toy drive, Stuff-a-Bus, the River City Concert, and on it went…
And it was the donations.
The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank relies heavily on the generosity of the community, with more than three quarters of our operations fuelled by donations and fundraising. Whether it was a family coming by with bags of groceries, the small and large businesses, labour unions, congregations, and community groups doing toy and food drives, or community members and businesses making small and large financial donations. It all adds up and gets collected to fuel our work not only during the holidays, but all year long. The generosity of people in our community – our neighbours – is astounding.
Then there was the distribution.
Most years we find a gymnasium or warehouse space where we can collect and distribute holiday food hampers and toys. This year the right space just didn’t materialize in time, so we decided to do it all at our 54 Ainslie Street location.
While the theme was cozy, our army of volunteers and dedicated staff ensured that it all went to plan. Over 450 families received holiday hampers and/or toys for children and teens over a two day period. The hampers were enough for a beautiful holiday meal, with thank to our many donors. And the toys were diverse and plentiful, enough to make sure that the families who registered would be well taken care of. So many of these families were sponsored by individuals, schools, businesses, families, churches – each stepping up to make sure that that one specific family would have a celebration to remember.
And most of all, it was the love.
Over and over I saw people wanting to share their love for their fellow community members. From the little girl who donated toys from her birthday party so that other kids could enjoy them, to the volunteers and donors who made sure that children from single-parent families could choose and wrap a gift for their parent, to the ever-full mitten tree, always loaded with handmade mittens, scarves, and hats, handmade with love and donated by community members. If you want to see people living the meaning of the season, you can find it here.
This is not to say that the entire experience was positive. Nestled beside the abundance of the season is the need; community members in need of warmth, clothing, shelter, food, and a sense of community and belonging. These are needs present every day in our community, but perhaps more obvious in this season. Charles Dickens wrote: “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” One hundred and seventy-five years later, these words remain true.
I am so honoured to get to participate in the tradition of holiday support at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank. I’ve never been more grateful to be so busy as I have this season. To each of you who volunteered, made a donation, knitted a scarf, put a can of food or a new toy into a collection bin, dropped off bag after bag of groceries, or shared a kind word with another member of our community – thank you.
Thank you for ensuring abundance rejoices in our community.
I am now six months into my role here at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, and I can’t express how amazed I am at the dedication, compassion, and care provided by our hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers. At a recent community forum, I was asked how long the Food Bank would last without volunteers. My answer of “about eight minutes” may have sounded like hyperbole, but it really wasn’t; we couldn’t do a fraction of what we do in our community were it not for the incredible dedication and generosity of our volunteers.
Last year our Co-op Members and Community Volunteers logged over 26,000 hours of volunteer time. Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend such a large number, but if we break it down, I know that each one of those hours represents a donation not only of time, but of hospitality, care, and compassion to a neighbour and fellow member of our community. What an incredible gift you provide day in and day out!
I know that not every day is easy, and that not every interaction provides you with the thanks you so richly deserve. But I know from what I see, and from what I hear and read from people we serve, that your efforts are deeply appreciated. You hold a space for everyone in our community to be served respectfully, kindly, and free of judgement. Please know that your contributions are never lost on all of us here.
As we head into this holiday season, I’m reminded of a line from A Christmas Carol when Scrooge is approached about a donation towards the less fortunate: “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” At the Food Bank this holiday season – and all seasons – we see people struggling through many challenges. We are so fortunate that so many in our community step forward to share their abundance – and this is no more true than the abundance of time and caring service shared by our volunteers.
I wish you all a happy and joyous holiday season, and a new year filled with blessings.
“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.” – Pete Seeger
Today, we launch the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank’s Fall Harvest Food Drive, spanning from September 19th until October 19th.
When we launch a food drive, the most obvious place to start is with the need – and the need is great. The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank serves over 1600 families a month. We distributed over 21,000 Emergency and Food Co-operative hampers to our community last year. We served over 3800 meals through our Mike’s Lunch meal program, and we shipped out nearly 1 million pounds of food to participants and to our 26 partner agencies; the equivalent of over $2.5 million dollars in food.
But numbers only tell a part of the story, as each number represents one of our neighbours. Each number is someone struggling with food insecurity – be it the parent who is just a bit short in between paycheques and needs food to send to school with their child, to the senior struggling to get by on a fixed income, to the person on the street with no kitchen to cook a meal, relying on one meal a day at a community meal program.
If we step outside with our eyes fully opened, we know that the need is great, the challenges more and more complex, the urgency feeling all the more urgent. That’s the reality we see each day at the Food Bank.
But there’s another reality I want to talk about: The generosity of our community.
From my first day in this role I have been overwhelmed by the casual generosity of the people of Cambridge and North Dumfries. I’ve watched as a mother hauls in bag after bag of groceries to donate at our front desk. The churches and community groups and businesses that run event after event to make sure that nobody goes hungry and that kids go to school with a backpack and the supplies they need. The corporations that send their staff to harvest vegetables in our garden. The co-op members who contribute tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time in our community. The individual donor who has signed up to make a $10 a month donation, or having a donor anonymously hand over a $10,000 cheque to make sure our shelves are stocked throughout the summer.
Coming into this role, the need didn’t surprise me. I knew that the need is great. The casual and consistent generosity – that’s something I didn’t expect.
In a short period of time it has impacted me, and even made me change the words I use. I asked Alie, who looks after our social media, to start using the hashtag #GenerousCbridge on posts that celebrate this generosity.
When writing our new website, I peppered the word generosity throughout. On the page that talks about volunteering and donating, I didn’t call it “Volunteering and Donating” as you might expect. I called it “Our Generous Community,” a name that just felt more apt to me.
The generosity of this community has given me so much hope. Our response to overwhelming need is a clear signal of our community’s capacity to care. And care is what this community is built to do.
So let’s do this, Cambridge! Let’s make this Fall Harvest Food Drive our best one yet! Let’s fill up boxes in classrooms, in houses of worship, in workplaces and community centres, let’s get creative and maybe even a little competitive (friendly competition is okay!). Let’s see just how much food and funds we can raise to ensure that nobody goes hungry this fall, that need isn’t met with concern about our ability to meet that need, but with a response that says: we can help. Let’s be the #GenerousCbridge that I know we are.
It says something about a society that allows hunger to exist. It says something very different about a community that steps up to end that hunger. This food drive is an invitation to our community to show what we’re made of. Let’s rise to the occasion – let’s be #GenerousCbridge!