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Unity Food Bank volunteers epitomize community care and commitment

Volunteer appreciation week is April 16-22 and residents of Unity want to give a shout-out to their community's Food Bank volunteers.

UNITY — Some people refer to the volunteers at Unity Food Bank as undervalued and possibly underappreciated. As national volunteer appreciation week is recognized April 16-22, Unity residents say it's time to acknowledge the work of the community's food bank volunteers.

Tomi and Terry Watt have been volunteers for 14 years. The Watts say there are eight people on the board with themselves and Allan and Doreen Buckley working directly with clients.

Volunteers are in charge of picking up donations that are left in deposit bins at the grocery stores, responding to emails, giving out food hampers, purchasing gift cards to distribute for milk, meat and produce as well as writing receipts for donations received.

“We enjoy helping people,” Tomi Watt says.

The food bank committee and volunteers want those who need the food bank should know it is a confidential experience.

“We understand that pride can get in the way, but we are here to help out.”

Unity Food Bank is located in the back of the Unity Community Resource Centre. Those in need of food bank donations can contact the Watts or Doreen and Allan Buckley to arrange pick up. Donors have the option of donating at one of the drop-off bins in the local grocery stores.

Tomi maintains Unity has always been a generous community. When once asked by a radio station about how they organize food drives, she noted the food bank itself rarely has to do this because the schools, groups and community organizations often include a food bank donation component to seasonal events or in conjunction with activities they are hosting.

For instance, the high school hosts the “We Scare Hunger” town-wide campaign every Halloween, while St Peter’s holds a food drive in conjunction with their Thanksgiving celebrations.

Businesses have either an employee food bank drive or donate funds from their dress-down days or donate to the food bank in lieu of Christmas exchanges.

The volunteers feel most appreciative of having the opportunity to receive this community generosity and arrange products within their location’s freezers, fridge or inventory shelves.

Doreen and Allan Buckley say they were drawn to volunteer for the food bank once they retired as they were looking for a way to give back to the community as well as keep the people connection going.

Doreen Buckley says, "“We have the time and the need remains strong. Some of our clients become like my kids. You get a vested interest in hearing their stories and helping them find jobs or get rides etc.”

Doreen says she often goes into the location to sort shelves and freezers and take inventory of what’s in stock so volunteers know what needs to be purchased or what items are getting low.

If needed, the food bank committee and volunteers will put a call out to the community for supplies and residents are always quick to respond, and generously, with what is required.

The Buckleys say they pick up from Delta Co-op regularly as the business donates often to the food bank, including bread every Monday. As well, they collect anything that is in the local food stores’ drop-off bins.

The Buckley duo also deals with some of the clients and the Watts deal with the others.

Both the Watts and the Buckleys affirm that Unity residents’ commitment to the food bank is phenomenal and they feel they are just playing a vital, yet medium role, in getting people and families the help they need. 

“People in Unity are very generous and it really helps out when distributing to clients as we never want to have to decline or give out smaller amounts than what clients are in need of.”

The Buckleys say, “Our biggest takeaway from this volunteer role is helping clients, those that are less fortunate.”

Allan and Doreen also enjoy volunteering as breakfast cooks with the museum’s weekly Sunday brunches, as does Terry Watt and say they enjoy the camaraderie and good people connections, as well as giving back to their community, as reasons they are volunteers.

“The food bank has given many of our residents peace of mind over the years. Their dedicated volunteers, such as Tomi Watt, let our community members know that help is available when they are experiencing difficult times. We have so much to be grateful for, our volunteers are priceless," says Mayor Sharon Del Frari.