Sponsor a Holiday Meal Today!

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.  

Christmas 2020

Now, more than ever, we need support from our community members. You can provide support in three ways; 

  1. Donation of a protein (turkey, halal meat) 
  2. Grocery gift cards in the increments of $25  
  3. Monetary donation 

You can make a monetary donation by;

  • Calling, 519-622-6550 and providing your credit card number  

 

From everyone at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, we thank you for your kindness and generosity! May you have a happy, blessed, and safe holiday season. 

 

 

A Holiday Message From Our Executive Director

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.

No Client Zone (Why we stopped using the word client)

From the desk of our Executive Director, Cameron Dearlove

It has now been a month and a half since I have joined the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, and I continue to leave here each day enriched by my experiences. I feel so lucky to get to spend my days around people who inspire: the people we serve, our dedicated volunteers, our generous donors, and our passionate staff.

I was drawn to this organization particularly because of the people, and the way they approach the work of the Food Bank. Simple interactions are layered with kindness and care. It’s one of the things that makes this place special.

But sometimes our words don’t accurately reflect our actions. Every once in a while I heard people using the word “client” in describing the people we serve. The word felt out of place, and a little bit jarring. It has a coldness that doesn’t match the warmth of the interactions in this building.

If you look up the definition of client, most uses revolve around a professional or customer relationship. It tends to be transactional, with one person providing a professional service for another. Merriam-Webster’s top definition are:

  1. one that is under the protection of another
  2. a person who engages the professional advice or services of another

This isn’t what I see in the work of this organization. Instead of transactional, I see relational. Instead of practitioner to client, I see community member to community member.

When we facilitate the donation of a backpack to a child for school, are they a client? When we walk with someone as they select food items to stock their shelves and crisper drawer, are they a client? When we provide support to access resources – or just a listening ear – to someone experiencing homelessness, are they a client?

Or is it one community member extending a hand to another – not a hand up or hand out, terms we so often use when we think of charities, but a hand shake that says you’re welcome here, you belong here, and we care about you.

So I invite you to challenge us if you hear the “C” word, and suggest to us some alternatives. We are going with “people we serve”, “members”, “participants”, “community members”, “our neighbours”. Even better: how about “people”.