News Release

How JustServe Community Volunteering Led to a Donation of Refrigeration Units

The Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge has just tripled its capacity to store refrigerated and frozen foods due to a $140,000 donation for new coolers from the Humanitarian Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Danielle McIntyre, the food bank’s executive director, said, “The additional space allows us to tap into supply chains that can only be accessed when we can accept the volume being offered. Being able to provide the families we serve with more fresh and frozen foods — which tend to be more healthy — that variety, it’s a big deal.” This donation is particularly timely as food bank usage in Canada is rising sharply.

Community Volunteering

The cooler donation is one of several synergies between the Church and the food bank that started when Karen and Colin Nemeth had the desire to volunteer in their community. In 2019, the Nemeths responded to a volunteer opportunity advertised through JustServe and began giving four hours per week to sort food at the food bank. “It was something we could do together in retirement,” Karen explained. “It’s a great place to serve, an amazing organization.”

Over time, the Nemeths began noticing how the food bank’s values align with Church teachings on self-reliance. The food bank had already received many awards as an innovator among food banks, in part because it looks to “give a hand up rather than a hand out,” said McIntyre. “We know there are reasons people are food insecure. We look to help with underlying issues that lead to food insecurity so that the families we serve can be empowered toward their own food security.”

The food bank was already offering several empowering programs, including cooking classes, learning gardens and a thrift shop. It also offers client advocacy, helping patrons access services such as housing supports, employment skills and resources to deal with mental health challenges and addictions.

Community Partnering

Karen wondered if the Church’s self-reliance tools would be useful to the food bank. In the spring of 2023, the food bank, in partnership with the Church, started holding a self-reliance class called Find a Better Job. The 10-week Church program helped learners develop a number of skills, including resume writing, networking, job seeking and interviewing.

Karen said the food bank was pleased with the partnership, so in early 2024, it will start a second Find a Better Job program along with a new class called EnglishConnect, which helps “learners develop English skills in an environment of fellowship and faith.”

Karen continues to work at the food bank, and during ongoing conversations with McIntyre, she identified a need for more cooler space. She wondered if the Church might be able to help, so she worked with the food bank to apply for a grant from the Church’s Humanitarian Services.

As we get out and serve in the community, we get to see the needs that are within our community,” Karen explained. “We, as Church members, have access to all the resources the Church has. Then we can offer those resources in the community to benefit all our brothers and sisters.”

At the unveiling of the new cold storage unit on December 6, 2023, Aaron Low, president of the Lethbridge Alberta East Stake, emphasized that the Church is grateful to be able to help, and its goal is to serve others as Christ did. “We were so grateful to be participating with the food bank on this initiative,” Low said. “We try and do what Christ would want us to do. And certainly, He would want us to try and help those who are in need.”

Contributed by Becky Doig.

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