Those of you who are long term customers will remember that we used to serve soup and sandwiches here at The Pantry. One of our regular lunch patrons was an elderly lady named Andrea. One year just before Christmas she gave me an envelope of money and told me to use it to encourage someone who needed it. That was the beginning of our Christmas basket fund. The next year Andrea decided that when she came for lunch she would give me extra money to go into a special tin. She did this for many years usually sharing over $100 each year from her “fixed income”. We then took that money and stretched it a lot further filling baskets with treats that people wouldn’t receive from their local food bank.
Eventually other customers discovered Andrea’s Tin and started to contribute to it. When Andrea moved to British Columbia to live with her daughter, Andrea’s Tin remained behind and we have continued to use this fund to bring cheer not only at Christmas but also at Easter. In order to better reach people who otherwise miss out on treats, last year we partnered with Open Arms Mission, letting them distribute the goodies. Andrea’s Tin is perched on the side of our small check out counter. It is screwed down but hangs a bit over the edge. It’s seemingly precarious position helps people notice it and it is heartwarming to see how many people stop to put their change into it. All tips also go into the tin.
Another exciting development has been a relatively new phenomena called Beyond the Streets. A few women began making hot meals once a week to hand out downtown Welland to people who might otherwise not have one. After starting in another location they made arrangement with the City of Welland to hand out their meals at Market Square two doors from our store. Others have joined the initiative. Now every Thursday at 5:30 people have access to a hot meal and other amenities like a used clothing table, toiletries and fresh produce. Other services have also been available like free haircuts. Usually Market Square is very quiet except for the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. But now Thursday afternoon people begin to line up well before 5:30 pm. The atmosphere reminds me of a village square as people chat while they wait.
Poverty is a discouraging place to find oneself in. The factors that brought people there, family break ups, mental health challenges, substance abuse and loss of employment can be difficult of overcome. Navigating a way out, is even more overwhelming when one feels that no one cares. “You are loved” is the message that Beyond the Streets works hard to communicate on Thursday nights. We cannot change everyone’s circumstances but everyone deserves to experience loving kindness.
We at The Pantry have been using our resources to provide supplies to the women who are cooking the hot meals. So far we have been able to forward grocery donations from several sources. Customers are also welcome to pass along ingredients that will make hearty soups, stews and chilis.
To Visit Open Arm Mission’s website click here… https://www.openarmsmissionwelland.com/