Between the housing crisis in Red Deer, an explosion of demand for Outreach programs and seeking more sponsorship, officials with the Loaves and Fishes Benevolent Society have a lot on there plates these days.
Three fundraisers were held this month in an attempt to raise enough money for a new roof, but unfortunately the goal was not met. Executive Director Halina Jarvis said the Society is under a fair bit of stress, but the fundraisers do help to alleviate that stress.
“To keep us operating, people just send us the $50 or $100 or whatever money they can spare. We have a lot of monthly supporters that really help keep us going,” Jarvis said. “Of course, there are a couple big corporate supporters and without them, we wouldn’t make it. It’s that kind of stuff that keeps us going – we don’t rely on grants. It’s all about fundraisers – the one at Parkland Mall this month was a godsend.”
The fundraiser recently held at Parkland Mall was called ‘Mosaics of Hope’, where tiles to a mosaic were sold, and Parkland Mall matched each dollar raised. For Loaves and Fishes, $7,500 was raised through this fundraiser, which is hopefully going to put a new roof on the facility.
“That was amazing, and a lot of people heard of us. It’s been a godsend to keep the programming going. We had three fundraisers this month and we were hoping to raise enough funds to put a new roof on, but we didn’t. We sold all 750 tiles at Mosaics of Hope, so we made a bit of money through Parkland Mall. They’ve been wonderful and matched everything we sold for the tiles,” Jarvis said.
“One of the other fundraisers was through Sears, who asked for donations at their till. Also at Spring Into Summer, funds were collected for us and we were the charity of choice. Cam Clark Ford came in with their vehicles too, so for every test drive of vehicles, we got donations. That was a huge support. When people support us like that, we can make it to the next month.”
Loaves and Fishes has not received a total amount of funds that will be donated from the Sears fundraiser, the Spring Into Summer fundraiser, or even from the Coldest Night of the Year (CONY) fundraiser held in February. The nature of donations and fundraising can take time to process, but during that time, people still need assistance.
Jarvis said recently there has been a massive uptake in the demand for their crisis outreach team. Loaves and Fishes is one of several facilities that offer beds and overnight care, but the demand is high.
“Where our programs shine and how they are different is that our volunteer Sheila actually takes people where they need to go. We don’t just give them a piece of paper and say, ‘Go do it.’ Between Safe Harbour and us, I think we are getting a lot of people to the right places and making sure that they are getting the help they need,” she explained.
“It’s such a huge difference for people in a crisis to have someone to go with them, because it’s a scary time.”
The crisis help is utilized mostly in evenings when people don’t know where else to go. They come to Loaves and Fishes for issues with having no food, mental health issues and addictions or if they are lacking housing. The broad reach of Loaves and Fishes services means there is a lot of programming to account for, but the struggle to access funding makes it difficult to provide those programs and services.
“Hopefully, we can find some new partners. That’s what we really need. We need someone to partner with us as their choice of charity, so that we know that we are continually supported. If there were some companies in town that would support us as their charity, we could really just do so much more,” Jarvis said.
“We’re not an anomaly – we’re not any different than any other charity in town. We are all struggling and everyone is kind of vying for the same dollars. One thing about Red Deer is that a lot the volunteers are going to the same meetings, meeting the same people and building up communications and sharing the load. That’s what makes it possible for us to stay in Red Deer.”
Another issue that makes the workload at Loaves and Fishes larger is the lack of affordable housing in Red Deer. Jarvis said many people who have low income housing or who are homeless seek shelter at Loaves and Fishes. With each person that seeks shelter there, that means food and supplies that are provided by Loaves and Fishes need to be purchased.
“People get caught in this catch-22 situation where they become homeless for an amount of time. Lots of times they have kids and they are out on the street or are couch-surfing. It’s just not acceptable, and it’s a huge crisis,” she said.
“The crisis outreach is paramount here in the evenings. In the mornings, you take off with people and do whatever you have to do with them. The program has definitely expanded, and people hear about what we do and people are phoning and walking in. There are a lot of people who need help and for every person that walks in we try to do what we can to help.”