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Lake Country's efforts for new food bank building to be aided by UBCO/Okanagan College

Bob Rymarchuk and Phyllis MacPherson, chairperson of the Lake Country Food Assistance Society, stack canned goods at the Lake Country Food Bank. - Contributed
Bob Rymarchuk and Phyllis MacPherson, chairperson of the Lake Country Food Assistance Society, stack canned goods at the Lake Country Food Bank.
— image credit: Contributed

Residents in Lake Country have taken the maxim, “It takes a village to raise a child” one step further, pursuing the idea that it takes a community to construct a new building for its food bank.

The Lake Country Food Assistance Society currently has leased space in the former Winfield elementary school – a building that is almost 100 years old. The community has long been looking at several ideas for a suitable facility and, and as space does exist in the community, a committee has come up with a plan to construct a new building.

But creating a new facility for a non-profit whose only goal is to help those less fortunate is not easy -- the food bank could not achieve its goal alone. The initial idea snowballed to involve many partners including School of Engineering students at UBC’s Okanagan campus and trades students enrolled at Okanagan College.

Bob Rymarchuk, project director for the Rotary Club of Lake Country, is the committee chair for the food bank project. He’s excited that UBC, Okanagan College, Rotarians, the municipality, and many other partners are working together to complete this project.

“It’s in a very old building, they have cramped quarters and quite often the clients have to wait outside because the space is so tight,” said Rymarchuk. “It’s not a good situation at all, especially when most of the volunteers and many of the clients are senior citizens.”

Rehan Sadiq, professor and acting director of UBC’s School of Engineering, says this type of project is the perfect opportunity to showcase the talents of UBC’s students while helping an organization and filling a community need.

“This is a good example of community outreach, as we often ask: How can we help our communities who continually support us?” said Sadiq. “It will give our students a real-life hands-on learning experience while at the same time benefiting the Lake Country community.”

Indeed, on a cold day in December, more than a dozen people wait outside while volunteers inside dodge around each other as they pack boxes for Christmas hampers. Shelves are stacked high with non-perishable items and boxes of donated food. There isn’t a spare inch of space.

Rymarchuk says the Food Assistance Society cannot apply for a mortgage, because it is a non-profit and spends the entire year raising funds just to fill the shelves. And that’s why the community, sensing the need, has stepped up to help get this project off the drawing board and into reality.

The proposal for a new building for the food bank was approved in principle by the District of Lake Country last summer. In return, the District of Lake Country has made an in-kind gift of a $250,000 land parcel beside the Lake Country Seniors Centre, near the curling rink and hockey arena.

If built on the site, the municipality will waive lease fees for the land and eliminate municipal charges while construction takes place. A combination of warehouse and storage space, the new building will be much bigger than the current facility and include room for administration, a prep area for sorting and repacking, and a display/reception area.

The Lake Country Food Assistance Society has applied for multiple grants, and it has received many donations and commitments for goods and services to get the project to the next stage, but Rymarchuk says more is needed for the $200,000 cost of construction.

While much of the plan is still on the drawing board, a feasibility study has been approved. It’s now a case of raising funds and awareness for the project. In the meantime, the Lake Country food bank continues to help those in need in its community servicing close to 600 people each month.

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