With the ongoing economic challenges facing many Albertans, Loaves and Fishes continues to need the community’s support for their various outreach programs.
These days, support is particularly needed on virtually every front including for the school lunch program, said Halina Jarvis, executive director at Loaves and Fishes.
“The school lunch program always gets done first – it’s never left. So we know it’s always going to be done,” she said of the service, which provides lunches for about 350 students across the City.
From there, we go into outreach which is usually the next one that needs the most resources because people need so much help especially right now,” she said, adding that there have been more new faces at Loaves and Fishes lately.
“Our needs never really change,” she said, adding there are persistent shortages of cash, volunteers and supplies.
Generous local residents and businesses come through, but times are tough and that is reflected in the numbers turning to Loaves and Fishes for help.
“We need partners, we need volunteers, we need food.”
As Jarvis mentioned, one of the hardest things for many people isn’t so much finding that first month’s rent as is providing the damage deposit at the same time which is normally the same amount.
“So they are trying to live through the month and still save money for that – it’s hard.”
It has been 20 years since Loaves and Fishes grew from the vision of two dedicated people passionate about helping others, to the ministry that continues to change the lives of many people today.
Loaves and Fishes is a registered, non-profit charitable organization.
According to the web site, staff and volunteers work with other agencies in the City to provide services, programs and solutions to minimize the suffering that is associated with addiction, homelessness, crisis trauma, abuse (be it physical, mental or substance related) and loneliness.
Some of the issues include providing sufficient nourishing food, safety from oppression and discrimination, counseling, shelter, justice and education.
“It is our mandate and our belief that it is the responsibility of all to help the less fortunate. We are so passionate about what we do because very simply, people need help!”
Jarvis said the number of people needing help also increased with the closing of the local warming centre.
“We also have a few from the oilpatch who have lost their jobs and aren’t able to find work,” she said. “They’re trying to find something to support themselves.”
Their programs run the gamut from the school lunch program, outreach programs and pastoral counselling to hot meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Jarvis also said the ministry is in need of donations including cash, support with programming including the school lunch programs, donations of a range of foods from fresh meat, whole milk, homemade nut-free cookies, jam and crackers that can help serve as snacks and juice boxes (excellent for the lunch program) to produce, large back packs, duffle bags, frozen peas and carrots, diapers and canned and dried food for weekly hampers.
“When we put out the call on Kijiji or facebook, people are just absolutely terrific. They’ll run to the store and come in with shopping bags of fruit or whatever. It’s an amazing result. There are big hearts in Red Deer. It’s wonderful to see people respond the way they do.”
For more information on how to help out, call 403-347-1844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.reddeerloavesandfishes.com.