Why are we doing this?
The mandate of the Edmonton Chinese Lions Club (“ECLC”) is to build strong communities. We have chosen to direct our service efforts to 3 groups: seniors, who have set the stage for our success; youth, who will be our future; and the disadvantaged, who struggle while others prosper.
2020 in 2020 is a continuation of ECLC’s celebration of 100 years of Lionism by packing 100 tin boxes of non-perishable foods (brainchild Lion Lan in 2015) for distribution by Edmonton’s Food Bank. This year, to mark the arrival of a new decade, our goal was to pack 2020 food hampers containing essential non-perishables (canned vegetables, fruit, protein, soup and pasta) to form a basic hamper that can be supplemented with other items to suit the needs of Food Bank clients. These food starter kits would be used to help feed thousands of Edmontonians in need – individuals and families. With a $16,000 donation, a work-bee was set for early May to assemble these hampers and have them ready over the summer to save time for Food Bank volunteers serving clients.
Sadly, COVID-19 disrupted that plan by (1) forcing physical distancing conditions which would not allow a large group of Lions, families and friends to pack hampers, and (2) a surge of new clients forced by loss of jobs, closure of businesses and cancellation of classes in schools. On top of that, distancing triggered cancellations of fundraising events and decreases in non-perishable food donations, causing additional stress for the Food Bank.
One glimmer of a silver lining, however, was that our food items, already bought and delivered to the Food Bank’s warehouse, were exactly what was needed for emergency distribution on short notice. With unanimous approval, ECLC members released this valuable food to the Food Bank for general use.
While we lost a team building and socializing session, our neighbours in the community gained over 2,000 bags of food (now being delivered to clients’ doors by volunteer drivers) to help them through this tough and unexpected crisis.
In partnership with the Food Bank, we were able to access their contacts and buying power to make efficient use of every donated dollar. The cost of one bag of generic items at a retail store is $10.80; the final cost of a comparable bag for the Food Bank was $7.90, less than 75% of the cost of individual Lions buying at our favourite grocery store and donating food as individuals.
Feedback & thanks from Edmonton’s Food Bank
“Non-perishable food staples are the base of every hamper that Edmonton’s Food Bank provides to those in need. These staples include pasta and pasta sauce, soup, canned meat, and canned fruit and vegetables. We ensure that every person who receives a hamper from us will get these basic items, so that they can have a full, nutritious meal on the table that night. Building starter kits with these items, which are easy to handle, is an essential task for our work in feeding over 20,000 people a month (over 62,000 different Edmontonians in a year). Once the basic kit is assembled, fresh food is then added, including eggs, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and breads.
“The starter kit items purchased for our joint initiative are exactly what is needed to respond to the crisis in our community right now. While we are saddened that the planned activities in May had to be cancelled, the product that you have generously made available to us can instantly be put into use. This has provided a stop-gap coverage as our supporters in the food industry maneuver to re-establish the supply chain that has been disrupted in recent weeks.
“In response to the unique situation we are experiencing, Edmonton’s Food Bank has also collaborated with the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights. The re-purposed food provided by ECLC is ideally suited for the creation of our emergency packs that we are providing to our most vulnerable community members who should not or cannot leave their homes. This includes those who are sick and contagious, those who are immunocompromised, and those who are over 65. In addition to these criteria, single parents, handicapped individuals, and other vulnerable people (youth to seniors) are able to receive an emergency food pack delivered to their door. A simple online form, along with a conversation with one of our team members, allows for them to get quick and immediate help.
“These services are already making an impact. Last week we had a single father of two, Blair, who has major underlying health conditions who needed an emergency food pack delivery. Blair explained that he lost his job, and he was waiting for the government’s financial supports to become available. A few days after we had delivered his food, Blair called again to thank us as the food had been vital for him and his children in the days he waited for the financial help to come through. He said that he is now able to order groceries, but our services were essential to him when he had no one else that he could to turn to.
“As an organization, Edmonton’s Food Bank needed to change systems over a weekend. For 39 years, our food programs have run uninterrupted, and our system to provide hampers has maintained the same basic processes. Many things changed because of COVID-19 and challenged our systems. Adjustments were made to everything we had been planning to allow for flexibility and best use of resources and time.
“Thank you for understanding the needs of our community at this time, and for releasing the food purchased for your event that we can use now. It was only possible to feed the most vulnerable when we have our community, partners, and friends helping us.
“Sadly, our work isn’t over. We are in the beginning phase of many months of work, and we need your help so that we can do our part to help our community overcome the pandemic.
“Our success of a community is because of the ongoing help from people like you and the Edmonton Chinese Lions Club. Our recovery as a community will not be a sprint to the finish line. It will be a marathon for all of us. Flexibility, understanding, and kindness was shown and will be needed moving forward. Edmonton’s Food Bank is in need of two key resources: friends & funds.
FRIENDS – Healthy volunteers are needed to help us build food hampers, sort donations, and work within the new “distancing” guidelines in our warehouse. Individuals or small family groupings are needed over the coming months. If you are able to help, please contact Virginia Pegg, Volunteer Coordinator, at 780.425.2133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FUNDS – We will need to purchase additional food resources, as our traditional food drives and other food sourcing has been interrupted for the foreseeable future. We would like you to consider making a personal donation online at edmontonsfoodbank.com. The amount is your choice.
“We will have long road ahead. We are confident that we will be able to keep feeding people thanks to the generosity, spirit, and living the motto “We Serve” with the Edmonton Chinese Lions Club.”
Manager of Strategic Relationships & Partnerships
Edmonton’s Food Bank
So tell me again; why do we do this?
The return to a more normal life will be long with bumps in the road ahead. It will be much harder for those who must decide whether to eat, pay rent or fill a prescription. Kids and seniors will suffer the most. We do this because they are part of our community and we are part of theirs.
As Lions, we chose to give something back to the community that allowed us to be successful community leaders and made the pledge to do so when we were inducted many years ago.
Let’s continue to serve. Even during this difficult time, many of us actually saved; be it working from home and saving gas, cooking at home and skipping restaurant meals, not playing those rounds of golf, or even shopping less. Consider making a personal donation securely online at https://www.edmontonsfoodbank.com/donate-now/. The amount is your choice (but make it a bit fun by donating in multiples of $7.90, as the cost of each hamper or $17.00 is the amount we are not spending on meals with the cancellation of our Lions meetings during the crisis) and will cushion the effects from the expected subsequent waves of COVID-19 forecasted by data modellers in the months to come. We suffer a little personal pain but to those in need, the benefit is priceless!