The city of Winnipeg may be buried in snow, but that hasn’t slowed down those who rely on donations for their meals.
Long-running charitable non-profit Agape Table saw lineups of people brave the chilly temperatures and deep snow to wait for breakfast early Thursday morning — no different than any other day of the year.
“We serve breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday to Friday, and honestly, our guests are lined up now anywhere from a quarter after 6 on,” Agape Table’s general manager Dave Feniuk told Global Winnipeg.
“Hunger doesn’t take a break just because the weather doesn’t cooperate.”
Feniuk said the situation seems to be getting worse for Winnipeggers in need, and that Agape Table is seeing a much wider range of guests looking for a hot meal than ever before.
“We’re still helping the marginalized community, but now we’re (also) feeding refugees, we’re feeding newcomers. … Unfortunately now we’re seeing a lot more people coming to the door that have jobs, and we’re serving the working poor,” he said.
“The cost of living has gone up almost 20 per cent in the last three years, and with COVID, a lot of people aren’t fully back to work. … Some companies are realizing you don’t need a full staff all the time, so they’re (only) getting part-time work.
“A lot of people are just getting their feet under them. We’re getting people coming to the door and saying, ‘I have money for rent and utilities, but I can’t afford the food just yet, can you help out?’”
While many of the visitors to Agape Table live in the immediate area around the inner-city food bank, Feniuk said there’s been an increase in clients from all areas of the city as well, including many seniors. One regular, he said, walks all the way from Garden City.
Spirit of giving keeps volunteers at Agape Table coming back
Agape’s executive director Jim Steep says in his seven or eight years with the four-decade old organization, he’s seen the need continue to grow — for everything.
“I don’t think we’re going to put ourselves out of a job anytime soon. The need just keeps getting bigger,” Steep said.
“Since I became involved, everything’s just gotten bigger — more guests, more food hampers, more people in need.”
Thankfully, Winnipeggers tend to be a charitable bunch. Steep said there are a number of grocery stores and other donors that help out Agape Table on a regular basis, as well as a strong group of volunteers who put in the hard work, snow day or otherwise.
“In Winnipeg, you know what people are like: they’re ready to give, they’re ready to donate, they’re ready to volunteer.
“We get a lot of businesses, companies come in to do a team-building day kind of thing, but we also have a core of maybe a dozen, 15 regular volunteers, and they’re fantastic. They come in almost every day and we couldn’t run this place without them.”
And while food is essential, in a Winnipeg winter, so is warm clothing, especially for those spending time on the streets.
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Kevin Walker, executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol, told Global Winnipeg that due to some break-ins at its Selkirk Avenue location, the organization is basing its main hub out of 190 Disraeli Freeway, and donations are always welcome.
“Especially in the wintertime, we’re always looking for winter clothing — warm jackets, mitts things like that,” Walker said.
“We do accept food, because we can get it out to our relatives right here at 190 Disraeli or we can give it to them out on the street as well.
“Everything’s harder in the wintertimec, … to get stuff out and resources out. Fortunately we have buildings, shelters. … It really makes a huge difference to what’s happening out in the city right now.”
Walker said organizations like Koats 4 Kids and the United Way stepped up when they heard about dozens of donated jackets being stolen from the Bear Clan’s headquarters, and Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham has also contributed to the cause.
“(The mayor) took the time to reach out to us, sending his apologies and his regards, and as of this morning, the mayor’s office has donated a bunch of clothing, warm jackets and things like that that’s going to make a huge difference in the community.”
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