From new immigrants to single moms and parents who’ve both been laid off, the so-called “Team Wednesday” from Richmond’s St. Alban's Outreach & Advocacy is making many friends during the pandemic.
That’s because volunteers from the church program have been devoting their free time – every Wednesday – to collect, package and, sometimes, deliver food hampers to people in need throughout Richmond.
The team have been on it since the outset of the pandemic in the spring, working with the school district to identify families in need of help in the city.
And the outpouring of gratitude from the people receiving the hampers has made it all worthwhile, according to the leader of Team Wednesday, Dianne Woodhouse.
“Team Wednesday is driven by an absolutely wonderful team of volunteers, who I love to pieces,” said Woodhouse, the nurse advocate for the outreach program.
“The thank you letters will bring a tear to your eye. There is clearly a lot of people out there who need help during these difficult times and we’re just glad to be able to offer some.”
Woodhouse said the team are made up mostly of parishioners from St Alban’s, unlike her “Team Friday,” which offers help to the city’s homeless population.
“One’s a retired home economics teacher, so she gets the whole nutrition thing,” added Woodhouse.
“They package up all the fresh fruits and vegetables that come in. Another lady has two little kids and she brings the kids in to volunteer. They’re loving giving back to the community.”
Woodhouse shared some of the contents of the thank you letters with the Richmond News.
One recipient wrote how “she was so grateful for the help. We shared the hamper with a young family from Israel. They are so happy to know that Canadians are so generous.”
Another told how she and her husband had both been laid off from their jobs due to the pandemic and were “cut off from friends and family. The weekly hampers are a blessing. It keeps food on the table and smiles on our faces.”
Woodhouse believes community centres have “kind of taken over a little of what churches used to do” in terms of helping the community and wants more religious centres to “help the poor, the homeless and the marginalized.”
In terms of the hampers, Woodhouse said her team got grants from local sources and support from the Richmond Food Bank.
“We target families with children in elementary schools. We thought that we would manage for about six months, but we are so frugal and good at shopping that we don't see this ending any time soon,” she said.
“We are sensitive to families who only consume halal, vegetarian or other ethnic needs. In the long run we feed about 95 people weekly.”
Woodhouse wanted to remind anyone in need of such a hamper that they need to go through their child’s school to make the request.