This spring’s flooding in Cache Creek affected many homes and businesses, with the non-profit The Equality Project hit hard when their property on Stage Road was badly damaged.
The Equality Project was established in Cache Creek in October 2014, to help disenfranchised and low-income adults. In 2016, Executive Director Shelley Magwood told the Journal that she founded the organization for three reasons.
“I was a volunteer at the food bank in Ashcroft, and saw all the non-perishable food we were giving out to people. Then I saw all the excess produce that people in the area were growing that was being thrown away or wasted, and wondered if there was a way to get that to people who could use it.”
She also saw items being thrown away that could be used by others, and got to know an older man who couldn’t afford to heat his residence, and was destitute. Magwood learned, however, that he was a skilled woodworker, and wanted to provide a place where he could work on projects and perhaps get help selling them.
In May 2016 the organization acquired the former Jehovah’s Witness Hall on Stage Road in Cache Creek, which allowed them to expand their operations and provide even more services. They gradually increased the number of days they were open, providing hot lunches and prepared meals Monday through Thursday, as well as giving members a place to come and socialize with others, work on crafts, and learn new skills.
Donations of clothing, household items, furniture, toiletries and more were accepted for the “Essentials Room” in the basement, where members could obtain items they needed at no cost. Volunteers were able to assist members who needed help with paperwork or forms, distribute hampers to members at Christmas, hold special lunches, and much more, making The Equality Project a major resource for many people seeking food, clothing, shelter, and assistance.
When record high flooding hit Cache Creek in early May, there were fears that the building had sustained major structural damage, and the clubhouse was closed for several weeks. Members were instead welcomed at the Cross Roads Pentecostal Church further along Stage Road, where limited services were available before the clubhouse could be reopened in July.
Briggy Schroeder has been the kitchen supervisor for the Project for eight years. She says she enjoys giving back to the community, but that the damage caused by the flood left her unable to help those in need. “It left a great void in those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community.”
An assessment of the property showed that the building’s foundation had been undercut, and that the parking lot — which backs onto Cache Creek — was destroyed. The building was cleared to open again in July, but the parking lot needed $15,000-worth of repairs, so on Sept. 16 The Equality Project held an event to raise funds for the necessary work.
The Harvest Tea and silent auction saw the community of Cache Creek come together to enjoy some tea and fall baking while helping the Project out. “We had more pumpkin pie than you’ve ever seen in one place,” says Suzanne Foster, The Equality Project Society treasurer.
All told, the event raised a whopping $1,800 for the non-profit. Foster says the Project is all about people helping people, which in turn grows a deep sense of community in Cache Creek, helping those who are lean on food and company.
“There are lots of regulars who come for the fellowship of it all,” she says.
“It’s just a great organization.”
Foster, who moved to Cache Creek two years ago for an affordable retirement, says that being a part of the society has made her feel at home, and she believes The Equality Project is a model that could be used across the province thanks to its dedicated volunteers.
“We have an awesome director,” Foster says of Magwood, who has also managed to secure grant funds to help address some of the issues caused by the flooding. “She’s just a jewel.”
The Equality Project is open Monday through Thursday, serving breakfast and coffee from 9 to 10 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with all meals free to the community. Anyone who would like to donate to The Equality Project, purchase a membership for someone, or volunteer their time should call (250) 457-6485.
With files from Jacob Webb and Angie Mindus