Valley Food Bank opens Brighter Days store

On Friday morning, April 8, Valley Food Bank’s Brighter Days store officially opened to offer a new service to customers and a fundraising option to sponsor its vital community programs.

Valley Food Bank executive director Monica Grant said the second-hand clothing storefront inside the front doors of its large new facility on Houlton Street serves two key purposes. The money raised through the sale of donated clothing directly funds the many services of the food bank. It also provides free clothing to food bank clients.

Grant said the store, run by Misty Brown, opened at 9 a.m. Friday and will be open to the general public Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store will be closed on weekends.

While donated clothing and a few household items are available for purchase by the general public, food bank customers can pick up needed items for free on Tuesdays.

Grant and Brown are encouraging area shoppers to visit the Brighter Days store to view the selection of quality used clothing. Not only can shoppers save money, but their purchases also help maintain vital food bank services.

The shop welcomes customers inside the main entrance doors of the 28,000 Houlton Street building to which the food bank moved last fall.

Grant explained that the large building enhances Valley Food Bank’s ability to provide more and better services to customers. The large facility also offers a few additional fundraising options.

She explained that the new building, which is still being renovated, provides more space and better options for receiving, delivering, storing, displaying and dispersing food for customers.

Grant said classrooms and a kitchen were still under construction. They will allow the food bank to organize cooking and nutrition classes once completed. It will also provide a space to offer finance and budgeting courses, tax preparation, educational courses and more.

Grant added that businesses, organizations and the general public can rent the rooms for meetings or conferences, providing additional revenue for the food bank.

Grant said funds were needed to meet the growing demands of the food bank, which saw 377 boxes of food released in March.

“That means we fed 377 families,” she said.

Grant said customers receive two boxes of food, one containing non-perishable food and another containing refrigerated and frozen food.

In addition to providing food boxes, the Valley Food Bank also provides food for breakfast programs at 17 schools and other outreach programs.

Grant said food bank demands are increasing, just as rising spending on food, gas and housing is putting additional pressure on low-income families.

“The cost of food is crazy,” she said.

She said low-income working families and the elderly make up a big part of her client list. In addition to new customers,

Grant said she’s been seeing a return from customers who haven’t used the service for a few years.

“We’re all one paycheck away from needing the service,” she said.

Grant explained that some clients only need temporary help to get through tough times, perhaps due to a sudden layoff or to fill in gaps while support programs kick in.

She said food banks are not funded by the government and rely heavily on community support, adding that the Valley Food Bank benefits from generous business partners in the region.

Complementing corporate donations helping to purchase and renovate his new home, Valley Food Bank is the Woodstock Rotary Club’s latest project.

At its virtual kitchen party on February 12, the club officially kicked off its fundraising campaign “The Valley Food Bank: Changing Lives in the Valley” to raise $1.125 million to complete the renovations.

Rotarian Ashley Farrell said the club presented the Valley Food Bank with a $150,000 donation at the event. She said the campaign, chaired by Ed Barrett, has formed sub-committees to approach local businesses and professionals in the area for financial support to achieve its goal.

Farrell said residents have two ways to donate directly to the Rotary campaign. They can transfer funds electronically to [email protected] or send a check payable to Valley Food Bank at 680 Main Street, PO Box 4227, Woodstock, NB E7M 1A0, Canada.

Farrell praised the efforts of Grant, his staff, volunteers and supporters since the Valley Food Bank moved to its new location last fall.

“They did a ton of work, and they did it very quickly,” she said. “It’s amazing what they’ve done with that.”

Farrell said the food bank project is Rotary’s biggest campaign since supporting the construction of the new Sanctuary House shelter for abused women and children.

In announcing its campaign, the Rotary Club described the many vital services the Valley Food Bank has provided to communities from Nackawic to River de Chute since its inception in 1983.

He explained that the Valley Food Bank provides food support to more than 3,000 households per year. It also offers inclusive programs such as community outreach, emergency food service, free clothing and household items, school breakfast, Christmas boxes, turkey drive, and birthday room.

Rotary’s donation of $150,000 at its launch and individual contributions have pushed its campaign almost halfway to its goal, with funds raised to date reaching $525,000.

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