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New West Kelowna food bank looks for fresh start

Shari Lowther, executive director of Friendly People
Shari Lowther, executive director of Friendly People's Single Family and Senior's Food Bank, stocks a bin with various canned goods. Lowther says the first two-and-a-half months of operation have been difficult as the new food bank attempts to separate itself from a former Westside single family and senior's food bank that had its charitable status revoked last year.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

The first two-and-a-half months of operation have been an uphill battle for Friendly People's Single Family and Senior's Food Bank.

Along with informing residents it's officially open and ready to help those in need, the Westside's newest food bank has endured the added challenge of separating itself from a controversial former charity of a similar name.

The Canada Revenue Agency revoked Bette's Single Family and Senior's Food Bank of its charitable status in September, 2012, noting the amount of money spent on food was significantly low. At the time, owner Bette Ladd said she would appeal the decision.

But, according to Shari Lowther, executive director of Friendly People's Single Family and Senior's Food Bank, Ladd is done with the charity and has no association with the new food bank.

"Bette has absolutely nothing to do with it anymore at all. She has gone into full retirement," said Lowther.

The only things the new food bank seems to have in common with Ladd's former charity is the location and the focus on single families and seniors.

Lowther noted Friendly People's has taken several steps to prove to the community it is a reputable nonprofit organization. The director added she is confident the CRA will be satisfied in any future audit.

"We've got a board of directors, they're all prominent members of the business community. I have a good accountant on board who is helping us step-by-step. A lawyer is on board with us, helping us as well," said Lowther.

Lowther decided to put her efforts toward the new food bank after speaking with her aunt and uncle—who own the property—about the lack of support for single families and seniors.

"There are a lot of single mothers and fathers who are struggling to get by and help their kids.

"I know there are lot of people out there having hardships, but our single parents seem to be struggling the most, trying to stay afloat.

"Seniors have always had a special place in my heart…some of them are struggling as well."

Along with the food bank aspect, Friendly People's has started a youth program to help out children of single families.

"One of the things we're doing now, a pennies from heaven drive, (collects) coins to put toward jiu jitsu lessons for the kids. The local club here are willing to donate some time to help the kids.

"We're starting to work with different clubs as well; we're starting to get things organized."

Friendly People's held its inaugural bottle drive, along with a tent sale, Saturday in an effort to raise proceeds for the youth program.

"We're trying to build that up, we need to be able to help those kids. I've got some educational programs lined up for them as well as some more social activities to keep them busy."

According to the new food bank's website, the youth program will likely be running by April 1.

Lowther added the nonprofit society also plans to work with the United Way to provide transit tickets for those in need and is currently discussing ways it can work with the Westside Community Food Bank to cooperatively benefit residents in need.

For more information, including drop-off times and regular business hours, visit friendlypeoples.ca.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

 

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