What’s a busy day?

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Doing intake at the front desk in our lobby

People are frequently surprised how busy we can get at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  Frequently we are surprised ourselves!

We are just one of a number of programs giving food to people in one form or another in Waterloo Region, but because of our location and facilities we tend to be the busiest on a daily and yearly basis.

How busy can we get?  Well, February 16th was a record setting day for us (again) with 278 food hampers distributed in the space of 5 hours.

This year February 16th was the day after the Family Day long weekend. In 2009 we were astonished to see 276 families and individuals come through our doors on that day, so for the 2010 day after Family Day we were bracing ourselves to do a similar volume of people.

In the preceding week, we carefully planned and organized our warehouse.  We started asking volunteers if they would be willing to come in an extra day, stay a little longer and help us deal with the high volume of people.  We worked with our main supplier, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to get additional food and fill all available space in our warehouse so we were ready to go when the time came.  It’s not like we have a lot of space at the best of times, but when we are stocked to the rafters there isn’t a lot of breathing room.

Then, when the day finally arrived we took a double load of perishable produce from FBWR’s trucks, sorted through it and shipped it out as fast as we could.  We’re open to the public between 11am and 4:15pm.  By 11:40 we had given food to 30 families and individuals.  Then things started to accelerate, as more people started to come down the hill to our warehouse and line up to talk to us.    By 12:30 we had helped over 80 families.  By 2:30 we had helped over 200 families.  At 4:00 we had given out 265 hampers and still people were coming in!  We closed out the day at 278, sighed in relief and exhaustion and put everything away so we could start all over again the following day (we distributed over 500 more hampers in the following three days we were open).

When you’re dealing with that many people the whole day becomes a blur.  The phone is always ringing, the shelf you just finished filling with cereal is empty before you know it, and cardboard is piling up everywhere as you empty case after case onto the tables and shelves hampers are assembled from.

Keeping the supply line stocked is a full time job

It’s hard to wrap your head around a number like 276 families and individuals needing food in KW in a single day.  The 276 represented 700 people in total.  That’s 700 people who woke up in the morning, unsure of what they were going to eat for the next few days. That’s 700 strangers our incredible crew of volunteers were able to help with the donations from untold numbers of individuals, families, businesses, and churches in the Waterloo Region and beyond.  It’s disturbing that so many people need help but humbling and inspiring that there are so many selfless people who are determined they will not go without.

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