Food and friend­ship

Who’s around the ta­ble as im­por­tant as what’s on it at Glace Bay Food Bank

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE

It’s not al­ways what’s on the ta­ble that brings peo­ple to the Glace Bay Food Bank, some­times it’s who’s around it.

“Many peo­ple come here for some­one to talk to, for con­ver­sa­tion,” said Justin Chi­as­son, 43, of Glace Bay.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing a meal of bologna at the food bank on Thurs­day, Chi­as­son sipped on a cof­fee as he spoke with the Cape Bre­ton Post, a sense of lone­li­ness ap­par­ent in his voice. Of­ten at the food bank as many as five days a week for a meal, he also looks for­ward to talk­ing with the other reg­u­lars.

“It’s good here, you make friends.”

A quiet but friendly man wear­ing a well-worn Toronto Blue Jays hat, Chi­as­son has been go­ing to the food bank for more than 25 years and said it makes a big dif­fer­ence be­cause he’s on a dis­abil­ity with Com­mu­nity Ser­vices and doesn’t have a lot to go on.

Chi­as­son re­ceives $810 but af­ter pay­ing $575 for rent and $75 monthly to­wards his power bill he can’t af­ford much in the way of food.

“If it wasn’t for the food bank I’d be go­ing hun­gry a lot.”

Grate­ful for the help, Chi­as­son can of­ten be found at the back at the food bank, help­ing to un­load any trucks that come in, while also help­ing with food drives.

“I feel like I should give back and I want to give back.”

Daniel Slaun­white, 36, of Glace Bay, was also at the food bank on Thurs­day, en­joy­ing a break­fast of bologna. Slaun­white said the food bank is a place where peo­ple are as­sisted in many ways.

“They help peo­ple with their taxes and even had some­one com­ing in giv­ing free hair­cuts,” he said.

The food bank helps him and his girl­friend, Slaun­white added.

“I come for break­fast but try not to get or­ders. My girl­friend gets or­ders as she has three kids.”

He is un­em­ployed but work­ing hard to change his life, in­clud­ing work­ing on his GED prepa­ra­tion.

But in the mean­time he likes go­ing to the food bank, not only for a meal but for friend­ship.

“It’s a nice at­mos­phere. Many peo­ple come to have some­one to talk to.”

Food bank vol­un­teer Ruth Martell said many who do come in are lonely and look for­ward to talk­ing to friends they’ve made there.

Some peo­ple even come in who don’t need food, she said, adding it’s of­ten be­cause of the com­pan­ion­ship.

“They al­ways sit at the same ta­bles with the same peo­ple. It’s friend­ship and a safe place they can come to eat and have some­one to talk to. ”

Nu­navut na­tive Mary Mak­iuk moved to Glace Bay with hus­band David Pem­broke, orig­i­nally of New Water­ford, with seven of their nine chil­dren in 2010.

“We wanted to give them bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Mak­iuk said her hus­band has se­ri­ous med­i­cal is­sues and the De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices as­sists them. But she doesn’t know what they would have done with­out the help of the food bank.

“It’s re­ally good, I come here a lot and they’ve re­ally helped us.”

She said it’s hard to find a job. Her hus­band looks af­ter the chil­dren and she makes jew­elry to try to help out.

“Thank God for the food bank. I have meals here and some­times my chil­dren do too when not in school. It’s hard for my hus­band to walk so some­times I’ll take a meal home for him.”

How­ever, Mak­iuk also said it’s also about the friend­ships that you seal there.

“I’ve made a lot of good friends here.”

Food bank co-or­di­na­tor Pat Hur­ley said the need is great in the com­mu­nity. Last month the food bank pro­vided gro­cery or­ders for 383 adults and 227 chil­dren as well as 949 meals.

The food bank will be hold­ing a food drive on Sept. 30, be­gin­ning at 10 a.m. and is hop­ing for public sup­port.

Peo­ple do­nat­ing food are asked to mark it for the food bank and leave it on the doorstep. Any­one wish­ing to as­sist with the an­nual food drive can con­tact the food bank at 902849-0750.

Glace Bay Food Bank chair David MacKeigan said the food drive is im­por­tant be­cause as fall sets in and the tem­per­a­tures drop, the num­ber of peo­ple walk­ing through the door will rise con­sid­er­ably.

“When it gets cold peo­ple have to make a de­ci­sion whether to heat their homes or pur­chase food and that’s why our num­bers in­crease this time of year. This year they’ll be even higher be­cause of the in­crease (cost) in fuel.”

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

From left, Mary Mak­iuk and Justin Chi­as­son, clients of the Glace Bay Food Bank, and Anne Bushell, a vol­un­teer, chat while hav­ing cof­fee af­ter en­joy­ing break­fast at the food bank on Thurs­day. Mak­iuk, who has four of her nine chil­dren still liv­ing with her, and Chi­as­son both said they are grate­ful to the food bank for the help but they also en­joy the com­pan­ion­ship of others they meet there.

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