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Friendship centre and food bank see increased demand

Local food back sees 112 new families in need over the COVID year

LAC LA BICHE - The Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre (CNFC) recently had a funding request approved by the Lac La Biche County which will add $57,185 to their coffers, and help them continue their efforts through a very challenging year.

CNFC executive director Donna Webster says the funds will go towards some staffing, program assistance and help to offset reduced fundraising revenues caused by a full year of pandemic measures. The centre provides a range of services, including a community food bank, youth programming and seniors' assistance.

The centre has been diligently trying to survive this past year, Webster says, taking advantage of every opportunity to fundraise in any way that they can, having lost their two main fundraisers — casino and bingo — due to provincial health measures relating to the pandemic. She says the community support has been strong.

“A lot of the fundraising was done online,” Webster says. “The schools as well were a great support, as well as some organizations like the Catholic Church.”

She explained that the community of Lac La Biche County was very supportive of the organization and various people would give them a call and donate through food drives, or through cash donations, and keeping that amount up so that they were always fully stocked well, so they could continue to serve the community despite financial struggles.

“We had to use all of our gaming money to cover the costs for a coordinator and then find other revenues to pay for power and heat and our photocopier,” Webster said.

Growing need

The additional funding from the municipality will mean that staff won't have to spend as much time looking for needed funding and can focus on tasks at hand to service a growing client base.

"Now they can focus on stocking those shelves and keeping them fully stocked," she said. 

The centre's food bank distributed almost 1,200 food hampers between January to December. Of that number, Webster says they had 112 brand new families that were brought in as new clients.  The food bank also created 165 food hampers for their annual Christmas Hamper campaign this year — a demand increase of 25 per cent over previous years.

“Our families, on average, have between three to five children. And we're serving a larger number,” Webster said. “So when you look at 1,200 hampers, there's more behind that number. And like I said, 112 brand new active clients during the time of COVID-19.” 

As the needs increase, so does the demand on the volunteers used by the centre. Some of the new funding will go towards training and organizing volunteers to help.

Webster says the organization is always accepting help from the community, whether it is through funding, food donations or volunteer time. 

The decision to provide the grant funding to the centre was carried unanimously and Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi thanked the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre for providing such a valuable service to the community.