There’s one day a week those in need can count on for a helping hand, no judgement and no questions asked.
Tuesdays in Trail is a campaign Trish Milne started to spread the word that anyone in need of a hand up will get it that day at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church or across the street at the Trail United Church.
“First I asked, ‘Who is using our food bank and why?’” said Milne, referring to seven months ago, when she became coordinator of the downtown service.
“To be frank, having been born and raised here, I am always floored there’s so much need in the community,” she explained, mentioning her eyes were first opened to local poverty while working as executive director of the Trail and District United Way. “This has been a real learning process for me, talking to people and businesses. To me it’s that education piece about the fact that there is a need for a whole range of reasons, and stigmas are a real barrier in my experience.”
A single mother of six, families with sick children, a pensioner struggling between cheques, senior citizens choosing between medicine or food, and chronic illness are just some of the reasons the patron line continues to grow in the basement of both churches.
“We did our own survey because we wanted to know who is accessing this, and I didn’t know when I started,” she said.
“Coming through that door is not easy for our clientele, there can be fear, trepidation and shame. But the need continues to grow and we need help to erase one of the stresses of poverty – hunger.”
The “Tuesday in Trail” catchphrase is a community reminder that the food banks work together every Tuesday to feed the hungry, and that volunteers and donors to not have to be members of either congregation.
“When I started going out and talking to people about donations and fundraising, I think there was misconceptions in terms of, ‘I am not a member of that church,’” said Milne. “You don’t need to be a member of the church, these are community-based food banks.”
Both programs began years ago as a small service for a handful of families and run by a few church volunteers.
Today, usage has swelled to such a point that weekly staples have been cut back as well as Tuesday meal offerings at St. Andrew’s.
When Milne began as director, 10 non-perishable food items were disbursed to each patron as well as donated fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods.
“We’ve cut back to 8 food items now,” she said. “Leading up to July, it’s our first month we have not provided a lunch, normally we have hot dogs or sandwiches, fruit trays and donated baking.”
During the July 14 St. Andrew’s food bank, 106 grocery bags had been picked up, leaving the cupboards bare and resources stretched to the limit.
“The fact is our donor base is changing,” Milne said, noting both churches have lost a considerable base of long term donors and volunteers since last year. “We need help to fill that gap. So I think it’s about educating people on the beauty of both organizations working together for Tuesdays in Trail.”
Each program is important to it’s individual ministry, and run slightly different from one another, she added. “Many of our community volunteers spread their time between the two organizations and we service the same at risk members of our area. It makes sense to ask for community support as one.”
For information, to donate or volunteer contact St. Andrew’s Church 368.5581 or Trish Milne at firstname.lastname@example.org, 693.8852.