Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 11, 2006
Sisters share food and compassion
Inner city people depend on Sisters of Providence's Anawim Place food bank
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We are a place of last resort for many people."
- Sr. Josephine Mainka
Many of Anawim's clients are on social assistance and receive $450 a month, which is barely enough to cover their rent, noted Sister Rose Roshau, who has been volunteering at the food bank for 20 years and was director for many years.
"I think the government should know that these people cannot live on $450 a month," she protests. "It's terrible."
In November alone, Anawim distributed 384 hampers that helped 775 people, including 309 adults, 195 children, 16 infants and 255 single men and women. Some 153 families are included in the November figure.
The busiest month of the year was January when 836 people, 156 families included, benefited from 484 hampers.
The Sisters of Providence opened Anawim Place in a rented store in 1988 following the closure of their food distribution at Sacred Heart Church earlier that year.
When the building came up for sale two years ago, the sisters decided to buy it for just over $100,000 because they couldn't find another place to move Anawim Place.
The Edmonton Food Bank supplies most of the food to Anawim, whose goal is to be "a caring, healing Roman Catholic presence to the disadvantaged people of inner-city Edmonton."
About 30 volunteers, mostly women of various denominations, help sort the food, interview clients, straighten and pack bags, and hand out hampers to clients. They put in an average of 450 volunteer hours a month.
Mainka said all of their volunteers share in Anawim's philosophy, which is one of compassionate love for the less fortunate.
Volunteers are generous and usually come out to the front with a list of what is available and ask the clients what they need. "We usually give them a few extras, especially when there are children," noted Mainka, a volunteer since 1994.
Canned dinner, canned fish, canned beans, cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter, coffee, cookies, margarine, canned and powdered milk and even cheese and fresh bread could make it into a hamper. A west end bakery donates fresh bread twice a week.
Mitch, 65, is also at Anawim Nov. 22 for a hamper. He has been coming for the past year and a half and will continue to do so until he starts getting his old age pension. "My income is not high enough right now," he explains. "But when I start getting my pension, I'll be okay."
"I need help and I thank these ladies for helping me at this moment,"
Mitch is a casual labourer and when there is enough work, he makes $800 a month. When he doesn't, he comes to Anawim.
He pays $400 a month in rent and has to be careful not to spend his rent money on food.
Volunteers clearly enjoy their jobs. Olli Bashaw of St. Thomas More Parish has been serving at Anawim for about eight years.
"I realize how much I have to be thankful for and I come here so I can help others that are in need," she said. "It's very rewarding." Bashaw does whatever is necessary at Anawim but she is officially the intake, meaning she make up files on new clients and pulls the files on those who are repeat customers.
Mary Lynch, also from St. Thomas More, has volunteered every Wednesday for more than three years.
"I'm retired, I'm a senior and I feel it's time to pay back," said Lynch. "This is one of the ways I pay back. I received a lot in my lifetime and now I'd like to give; I have more time to do so."
What does Lynch get for her efforts? "A lot of satisfaction that you have helped a lot of people in need."
Sister Theresa Devine, a 90-year-old retired teacher, has been volunteering at Anawim since the food bank was at Sacred Heart Church, and is not planning to quit anytime soon.
"These people are my friends," she said of those who come to Anawim for help. "I'm always tired when I am home but when I'm here, I feel alive, full of energy. I feel happy and at peace when I help someone in need."
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