It has now been over 100 days since our lives changed and we flipped from the Friday Night Community to the Take Home Meal Bag program. As some of us start to get back to a new normal, there is great uncertainly about what is to come. Without the regular community meals and outreach programs in place, food security continues to be a challenge for many. We are not only assisting friends who came in our doors on Fridays, but also new folks who are now needing food support due to health challenges, social isolation as well as unexpected financial hardships. We continue to provide over 1200 meals bags each week, while delivering to over 140 residences who are not able to pick up due to extenuating circumstances.
We have many good news stories including some about folks who are no longer needing food support. The Meal Bag Program allowed one mom of 2 young adult children to take her mind off of food security, and she found the confidence to secure work. A young dad came to get food for his family and asked if he could help. We welcomed him in and he was able to give back and feel needed. Yesterday while picking up his food he shared that he secured a job at a gas station (outside his IT field) which has allowed him to provide for his family. One shut in senior woman who has been struggling with life crises, rejection and mental health issues for years shares that her days are brighter because of the meal support as well as the caring and respectful manner in which the food is delivered.
We know that COVID has impacted all of us either directly or indirectly. One mom of 3 children who was COVID positive and continues in her healing commented, “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have what the program is providing me with to feed my family while struggling with my physical and mental frailties at this time.” After a very lengthy stay in the hospital due to COVID, a 61-year old mom of a physically challenged 21-year old son returned home having lost 30 pounds. She shared, “I want to express my deepest appreciation for all that is being done for me. This program – all of the parts, right down to the wonderful man who delivers our food and the food made by everyone is just so sustaining and amazingly delicious. It has quite literally saved my life!! A ‘thank you’ is just not enough! You know, I was 106 lb when I got home, having lost 30 lb with this virus which on a 5’10” frame was VERY thin indeed. Since May 20th when I started receiving the meals and the Ensure Plus I now weigh 130 lb. God bless you all!”
Last week a lady approached me near the end of the day and asked how she could make a donation as she said she wanted to give back. She told me she might cry when she explained (which she did) that about 20 years ago we helped her out when she was a single mom, and she would never forget that. I didn’t hear much about how she was helped or who was involved…but it reminded me how one interaction, one act of hope, one gift of generosity can impact someone in a way that 20 years later they can’t talk about it without crying, and want to give back as a way of saying thank you.
We are thankful for those who are a part of preparing, packaging up and delivering meals, for the caring and compassionate team that assists folks who come to pick up on Meal Bag Days, as well as the Community Connections Team who provides telephone support to over 250 friends. Our community partners (Open Doors, Next-door Social Space, BurLINKton Community, Chef Keith Hoare and his team, our Vegan cooks, Burlington Food Bank, Salvation Army, Food For Life) are integral in allowing us to provide this abundance of food support at this time. Whether the impact is short term or remembered 20 years from now, we thank you for helping us to make that profound difference through your volunteer interactions and food and financial donations which allow us to continue to support our community.
Happy Canada Day! 🇨🇦 With thanks, Lisa and the Meal Bag Team
As part of Friday Night Community we know how important food is not only for maintaining and building health, but also for connecting and bringing people together. Through the Meal Bag program we provide food to nourish and meet the important need of food security, however we continue to strive to find ways to care for and connect our friends. Our community is no longer able to attend the regular dinners, lunches and outreaches that were such an integral part of their community connections and positive mental health. We know that there are many who are desperately missing the opportunity for hugs, caring conversations and real connections.
Last month we lost one of our new babies that we were delivering to. The family continues to grieve and receive food support from our program. This past week one family came and let us know that this time they were picking up for 4 adults instead of 5, as Grandma had just passed away. Every week a Friday Night Community father who is hearing impaired would come with his adult son to pick up their food. He arrived alone on Wednesday and passed us a note saying, “MY SON PASSED AWAY LAST TWO WEEKS AGO. I AM STILL SAD AND I MISS HIM. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.” He signed to let us know that he has a broken heart. So much uncertainly and loss at this time, and it is difficult that we cannot put a hand on a shoulder or hug a grieving friend.
We have over 240 friends buddied up and receiving regular check in calls, and we are also able to have some friendly chats while folks come to pick up their meal bags throughout the week. Our wonderful delivery volunteers may have an opportunity to check in while dropping off a box of food. Over the last couple of week we have included cards with a friendly message of hope as well as craft bags for the children who might enjoy a creative opportunity at home. These are all ways we strive to stay connected. In addition through the Friday Night Community Facebook page we can share pictures and memories. We don’t know what the future of community meals will look like, but we do know and understand their importance. We encourage friends to stay connected in whatever way possible and to continue to reach out and provide encouragement, love and hope to folks in our community.
With the help of so many wonderful organizations and individuals who are providing food and financial help, we are feeding well over 1200 individuals each week while reaching over 250 residences. During this time we are providing food support for a number of reasons. One mom works in a long term care facility and became ill with COVID. Her husband and children were also positive and the recovery has been long and difficult. We are able to assist with food needs as well as hygiene and personal care items for this family. Mom shared, “It still shocks me how long this virus can linger and continue to cause problems. The nourishment and clean supplies that were provided in our meal bag boxes saved our lives. I do not know what I would do without the food. I feel guilty for taking the food because I know there are other people in need, but at the same time I feel like I am hanging on by a thread.”
Thank you for your continued food donations, financial support and prayers. As food prices increase we are finding it more difficult to access food. If you know anyone in the food industry who may be able to assist please do reach out and let us know. Please post and share some of our biggest needs at this time which are listed below.
With thanks and appreciation, Lisa Lunski, email@example.com
The Friday Night Community Meal Bag program continues to provide food for community friends. These include those struggling with food insecurity, vulnerable seniors needing to self-isolate, folks who are COVID positive and families who have lost loved ones. We continue to appreciate the support which allows us to support over 250 local residences each week amounting to over 1200 meal bags. Please spread the word that we are in need of perishable and non-perishable food, hygiene and cleaning products and items for babies.
One mom works in a long term care facility and became ill with COVID. Her husband and children were also positive and the recovery has been long and difficult. We were able to assist with food needs as well as hygiene and personal care items for this family. Mom shared, “It still shocks me how long this virus can linger and continue to cause problems. The nourishment and clean supplies that were provided in our meal bag boxes saved our lives.”
Thank you for helping us to care for others during this difficult time.
It feels like we have moved into a new normal for the Friday Night Community Meal Bag program. However as we move forward into a stage of Phased Reopening while continuing with social distancing, there will be challenges, needs and modifications to continue to support those struggling with food insecurity. Much is uncertain but we do know that the need for food, community and connection will always be there. We are working alongside the Mayor’s COVID Taskforce as part of the Food Network to determine how we can best continue to support our friends.
Our program continues to grow while agencies and organizations learn about those who do not have the food access needed. We have the meal pick up Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12-4:00 as well as close to 100 deliveries each day for those who are not able to access food from the church for various reasons. At the present time we are providing over 1300 meal bags each week. We are thankful for our community partners including Open Doors, Next Door Social Space, North BurLINKton and local caterers and a chef who are preparing meals to help us keep up with the demand. Burlington Food Bank has been very pivotal in providing us with food and financial resources as needed, Salvation Army shares food resources and we get a weekly delivery from Food For Life. We couldn’t do all of this without the use of the Voortman’s 53 foot refrigerated truck which keeps our food cold.
We presently have 40 volunteers who are calling over 240 families and individuals to provide telephone support, care and reassurance during this crisis. Through these relationships we learn about folks who are struggling and help them to find resources to assist them. This past week one of our Community Connections buddies shared that in one of her calls the woman talked about being very anxious and having troubles sleeping because she didn’t know where she was going to get food. She had a vision telling her “Go to sleep; I’ve got this.” When the woman woke the next morning, she got the call about the Meal Bag Program from the Friday Night Community.
We have received some COVID emergency funding as well as support from local churches, organizations and individuals which is allowing us to purchase weekly produce, meat and consumables. Please spread the word that we are still in great need of all food items including fruit, vegetables and meat, baby food and cereals, body lotion, shampoo, body wash, laundry soap, dish soap, cleaning products, paper towel, toilet paper, sanitary products and adult Depends.
We have many stories of celebration, God’s miracles and perfect timing in much that has happened. One of our delivery volunteers shared, “My favourite delivery is always to Martha. She is most gracious and appreciative. She also expressed her gratitude that we would do this for a Muslim woman. As I was making today’s delivery a friend of hers asked if I was a relative. She replied, “No, he is God’s helper. He is doing God’s work.”
Lastly I wanted to share this e-mail message that we received from one of the ladies that is accessing the Meal Bag program…
I just want to take a moment to say thank you once again for everything you are all doing. Your kindness and generosity have made an enormous difference to so many people’s lives. On behalf of my family and the families that I deliver to, words cannot express the gratitude we feel for your brave and selfless commitment to helping others in need. My husband, Andrew, is one of the millions who lost their job due to Covid-19. I suffer with Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia so I can’t work anymore. Even with the Emergency Response Benefit, we are finding it difficult to keep up. Your emergency food program was truly a godsend for my family, and I know the other families that I pick up for have their own reasons to be just as grateful. You truly are doing God’s work! Thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts. 💖 I’ll look forward to seeing everyone next week.
I love how our community has come together to support friends in need of food support, hope and friendship at this time. We do have fellow volunteers who are struggling with job and financial loss, physical and mental health challenges and who have lost family members or are presently COVID positive. Please let us know if you would like to be added to the confidential prayer requests or would like a Caring and Connect volunteer to reach out to you. In addition, if you haven’t already done so, check out our Friday Night Community facebook page to stay connected.
With thanks and appreciation and a Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who have birthed, adopted and continue to love and care for friends in our community. Lisa 💕