Annapolis Valley Register : 2020-03-19

LOCAL : 3 : A3


ANNAPOLIS VALLEY REGISTER THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2020 local A3 CK Gators boys win second provincial hockey banner in three years. B1 Twelve Baskets Food Bank manager Joan Morrison looks into the eyes of people struggling to make ends meet on a regular basis. She takes them by the hand. She dries their tears. “Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, there’s something new. I’ve had people come in here crying because they didn’t want to be here, but they had to be here,” said Morrison. She’s happy to help. All of the volunteers at Twelve Baskets are happy to help. “None of us know what tomorrow is going to bring,” Morrison often tells new clients. And there are a lot of new clients. “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get new families coming in looking for help,” Morrison said. “And, I must say, we’re all very pleased and take great pride in helping the people that we can. There’s nothing any more rewarding than to help somebody who needs a little helping hand.” Twelve Baskets is based in Nictaux, Annapolis County. It services a number of rural communitie­s spanning from Port Lorne to Wilmot (up to the Dodge Road), Nictaux to the Bay of Fundy shore and, in the other direction, out Springfiel­d way, to the Lunenburg County line. “There is a big need in this area,” Morrison said. “We’re spread out so far.” She said Twelve Baskets serves, on average, about 275 to 300 families each month. They’re open three times a week. Stats compiled by Feed Nova Scotia show that, on average, the 11 food banks spanning from Annapolis Royal to Windsor served roughly 31,000 visitors per year between 2013 and 2018. “Overall, we see signs of a sizeable and persistent problem,” said Feed Nova Scotia the presence of poverty remains clear to see from Johnston’s vantage point. “It’s there. Poverty is there and, you don’t leave another human being behind. I’m sorry, that’s just all there is to it,” she said. “We’re all humans. We should be kind to one another. We’re all placed on this earth to live the best life that we can, make life easier for somebody else, spread the wealth.” Bridgetown’s food bank is in need of some new volunteers, including prospectiv­e board members. “I find it heartbreak­ing at times. I find it sad, but I also find it very satisfying … and hopefully the clients that are coming in recognize the fact that we will try to go over and above,” Johnston said. She takes comfort in knowing the food bank’s volunteers do everything within their power to support members of the community when they are struggling. “We’ve had a couple come in that have had a reversal of fortune and they have actually turned around and given back, and that’s very satisfying when that happens,” Johnston said. If there’s a way to provide analyst Brian Boudreau. “Thirty-thousand-plus food bank visitors in a year is clearly too many.” In Nictaux’s catchment area, Morrison said affordable transporta­tion options are limited, with the bus only passing through every two hours. Some clients have to borrow vehicles, arrange pickups or walk long distances after getting their groceries from Twelve Baskets. “A big problem that they have is getting here and getting their groceries home,” she said, noting that a pre-arranged transporta­tion service would be helpful. She stressed that the food bank is there for those who need it, and she hopes individual­s struggling to put food on the table won’t shy away from asking for help out of fear of judgement. “That lays heavy on all of us that volunteer here,” she said. “The people that come here are here because they enjoy helping people.” Morrison said she can easily see how someone struggling to find employment in a rural community would find it hard to keep up with the standard costs of living. “Personally, I don’t think I would want to try to live on social assistance, especially if I had a child or two … they don’t really have enough to live on,” she said. Bridgetown and Area Food Bank volunteer co-ordinator Marjorie Johnston concurs. “Many of these persons have to make that decision between feeding their family, or feeding themselves, or heating the house, or paying the power bill, or paying for medication — or, or, or,” said Johnston. The food bank in Bridgetown was serving upwards of 60-some families a few years back, but now they’re seeing about 30 families on a regular basis. Johnston said she doesn’t know for certain what led to the reduction in clients, but she does know that some of the younger families relocated. “A lot of our clients are seniors,” she said. She said some local schools are also working with area food banks to provide students with some basic necessitie­s. “We see some desperate poor people, parents just trying to do the best they can for their children.” While statistics fluctuate, assistance or point someone in the right direction, Johnston is happy to do it. “There is a lot of poverty in the area but we’re doing the best we can,” she said. Ashley.Thompson@kingscount­ he understand­s as the chairman of Open Arms and from his time as the province’s community services minister that it’s very difficult to find reasonable housing accommodat­ions at an affordable price. “We’re very disappoint­ed with council’s decision,” Morse said. In 2017, Open Arms purchased the former church building and 3.5 acres of land with the intention to establish an affordable housing developmen­t. Cost estimates for the project were in the range of $3 million. The plan was to offer lower-than-market rent rates for low-income earners. The proposal involved building as many as 60 apartment units in five buildings. The existing church building was to be used for a program with a live-in co-ordinator for people in need of life skills coaching. If zoning didn’t permit this, the ground floor of the church was going to be renovated into apartment units. The possibilit­y of a daycare was also being explored. The original plan also involved keeping the church sanctuary as a potential meeting space with seating for 250 or more people. Last year, following a recommenda­tion from the town’s planning and developmen­t department, Kentville town council voted against rezoning the lots that make up the subject property at 118 Oakdene Ave. The rezoning from R1 and R2 (Residentia­l One Unit and Residentia­l Two Unit) to the higher density R4 zone would have allowed for such a developmen­t. The recommenda­tion from planning staff against the rezoning was based on the lack of a middensity R3 buffer zone. An affordable housing developmen­t for Kentville first proposed by Open Arms in 2017 has gone by the wayside. Open Arms is a registered charity offering outreach services. Board chairman David Morse said the organizati­on’s plans have changed with regard to the former Kentville Christian Reform Church property on Oakdene Avenue. “We are in discussion­s with another party to sell the property,” Morse said. He said that although he feels that Mayor Sandra Snow “was very appropriat­e throughout this very difficult time”, Kentville town council “made it very clear that they did not welcome” the proposed affordable housing project. From reviewing the Town of Kentville’s Municipal Planning Strategy, Morse said support for affordable housing seems to be one of the town’s “very clearly articulate­d” goals. Open Arms representa­tives felt that the project was “a perfect fit.” Although he isn’t working on the front line, Morse said Kirk.starratt@kingscount­ — With files from Sara Ericsson