We have supplied a $20,070.00 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to City Dream Centre to support their food hamper program. This program began in April of 2020 and continued until August, providing food hampers to individuals, families, seniors, and others experiencing low income compounded by COVID-19. As the need for City Dream Centre food hampers has increased, this funding will cover the costs of food, rentals, disinfecting supplies, masks, gloves and printing for the months to come.
Since the end of August, City Dreams Centre has assembled hampers whenever funding was secured. Fortunately, the money from this grant will cover 414 hampers. Some were distributed before Christmas, a round of 120 hampers will be delivered at the end of January, and another 120 in mid-February. These hamper deliveries will target a specific group of townhouses and apartment complexes that have a huge ongoing need.
Loretta Hibbs, City Dream Centre’s President, explained that “this project fills a unique gap in that it offers connection to the recipients, as well as food. Over the summer, our deliveries were mainly to low-income housing complexes near inner-city schools, where the Surrey School Board had identified a need. We spent time with the families, heard really hard stories and were able to offer encouragement and connection to other resources.” She added that “one complex reported that our hampers sparked a sense of community in their building. They found that one 92-year-old woman had been eating only tea and toast for months and another 72-year-old lady had eaten nothing in 3 days so City Dream Centre was really able to help.”
City Dream Centre’s volunteers are eager to get back to the families and individuals that they have built relationships with during the first phase of their food hampers program as they love seeing how those families are also helping each other. During the first phase of City Dream Centre’s hamper project, they were able to streamline their process. Beginning with a round of check-ins with their contacts from the Surrey School Board, admin leads at women’s shelters, seniors on their list and much more, their volunteers get right to work preparing and delivering the hampers. Of their 385 volunteers, the shifts are scheduled with 50 people at a time to get hampers ready. Teams of drivers with rental trucks and others with their personal vehicles are then assigned hamper delivery.
“At the beginning, nobody knew what this pandemic would look like, making everyone, including myself, nervous about having enough supplies in our cupboards to last. I knew that there were people in our community who are facing similar situations but worse,” said Loretta Hibbs, President of City Dream Centre. Some individuals had “No food in their cupboards, were worried about how they will get food and are losing their jobs amidst the pandemic. Therefore, we knew we wanted to increase our food hamper program from being 3 times a year to every 2-3 weeks to support those facing these challenges.”
The City Dream Centre food hampers include 7 days’ worth of meals for a family of up to 5. The two fully packed bags (three for Christmas) include products such as rice, beans, spaghetti, canned meat, bread, etc.
Many City Dream Centre services had been shut down during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the food hamper program to the forefront of the organization. Some of City Dream Centre’s other services include an Adopt-A-School Program, a Parenting Education Program, and a Dental Program. While many of these programs have been halted, the organization is working to bring some back with adjustments that meet COVID-19 safety guidelines.
This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada's $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares Community Foundation in its first round and now, over $575,000 in the second round.
Christine Buttkus, the Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation explained that “COVID-19 has been challenging our community in many ways but Surrey has truly pulled together. We’ve had new donors giving funds to support Surrey nonprofit organizations and we’ve also noticed how individuals are helping within their neighbourhood, as made clear with this hamper program.”
Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Surrey Community Relief Fund. In partnership with the Surrey Now-Leader, Surrey Board of Trade and The Saheli Foundation, the goal is to raise $500,000 to support the most vulnerable populations in Surrey.