This 1997 photo features Ponoka Food Bank volunteers Hazel Rochan

Ponoka Food Bank appreciates community support

With food banks across Alberta seeing demand skyrocket to unheard of levels, the Ponoka Food Bank is glad of all the local support they get

Food Banks throughout Alberta and beyond are now facing an over-whelming demand for assistance from clients of all ages and all walks of life. This crisis is likely due to the approach of winter and the holiday season, as well as the down-turn in the economy of our proud and free nation. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help, but our Food Banks will always be there for that reason only, and to hopefully make it just a little easier to get through when times may get a little tough.

Food Banks, which are non-profit and volunteer organizations, were formed many years ago by groups of concerned citizens, churches and community organizations, to provide basic food supplies and compassionate care and support to families and individuals who were in need of help, or have suffered a mishap or an emergency which has made them unable to provide themselves and their families with the necessities of life. The Food Banks operate on a year-round basis to serve their communities and surrounding districts, and their dedicated efforts include reaching out to organizations and individuals in an effort to collect an ongoing supply of food and donations that will enable them to provide the vital needs of those who may require a little help and encouragement and the opportunity to take a brighter step into the future.

The history of the Ponoka Food Bank

With much encouragement from many people in our town and county the first Ponoka Food Bank was opened on July 10, 1984 in the basement of the Ponoka Town Hall and would serve the public every Tuesday and Friday. Dorothy Schmidt was the first volunteer manager and was supported by a dedicated community board of directors and many volunteers and drivers, who assisted with the sorting and packing of foods, delivered the hampers and other day-to-day chores.

The initial response to the program was tremendous, with 23 sponsoring community organizations coming on board to spearhead the screening of those families and individuals in the area who required some assistance. Food Bank volunteers then filled the hampers on a nutritional pounds-per-person-basis, and they were delivered each week to the client on a month to month basis. After six months of operation the Ponoka Food Bank was registered as a Society and would receive the immediate and exciting support from all areas of the town and county, not only with the kindly donations of food and cash, but also with vital storage equipment such as a fridge and freezer and much more.

Over the 32 plus years that our very busy Ponoka Food Bank has been in operation, the demand for assistance has grown with the steady growth of both the town and county areas, but with the keen dedication and enthusiasm of the staff, board members, and many willing volunteers, their goals have been achieved and no one has ever been turned away. The greatest blessing of the program has been the overwhelming and ongoing response and support offered by countless organizations and individuals from our urban and rural areas, which has allowed our Food Bank to serve well over 100,000 individuals and families who have reached out for this vital year-round assistance. Along the way the managers who have led the way at the Food Bank have included Dorothy Smith, Darlene Heck, Liz Weatherill, Robyn Carlson, and Violet Smith, who is now faithfully serving in her 17th year. The present board of directors include chairperson Dean Hill, Josephine Nichols, Sherrie Meiller, Sybil Evans, Elizabeth Rowland and Margaret Stretch.

The generous and exciting events that are hosted yearly by our local and rural businesses, churches, schools, clubs, teams, individuals, and on and on in support of the Ponoka Food Bank have included: garage sales, pie and cookie sales, fun games of sports, raffles, dances, concerts, pancake breakfasts, bingos, barbecues, walkathons, County Fair, rodeos, horse shows, 4-H projects, and on and on. Some of the major annual attractions over the years that have also collected items or donated proceeds to the Food Bank have been: The Ponoka Kinsmen Carol Festival (Monday-Dec. 5, 2016-6:30 p.m. United Church), Ponoka Lions’ CPR Holiday Train (Dec. 7, 2016 across from the Brick at 4:00 p.m.), while 900 pounds of food and cash were collected at the Nov. 18th Midnight Madness, and of course, there will be always be many other events aimed at giving a helping hand.

The Ponoka Food Bank is located at 6B-4612-50th Street (at the back of Park Plaza) and is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. all year round. Regular items of food that are accepted include canned fruits/juices/vegetables/meat/fish and beans, canned and powdered milk, cereals, pastas, baked goods, peanut butter, pancake mix, crackers, sugar, coffee, and tea, as well as the annual donations of fresh garden produce, meat, and on and on. The kindly cash donations are used to purchase the food vouchers and many other food and personal items that are required to assist the clients. For more information on the Ponoka Food Bank program please drop in or phone 403-783-5910, and a big thank you to everyone for so generously giving from the heart to help others enjoy a better quality of life in and around our friendly community.