The South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society (SCEFS) held its first community appreciation barbecue on August 1, with several dozen people enjoying hamburgers and fresh fruit, admiring the community garden behind the SCEFS office on Bancroft Street in Ashcroft, entering prize draws, speaking with Community Paramedic Philip Schuberg, Jan Boyes of RCMP Victim Services, and mental health clinician Lorrinda Casper , and providing feedback about seniors’ housing and Cache Creek’s downtown core.
Yoriko Susanj, executive director of SCEFS, says that she was approached by the United Way, who had wildfire recovery money to hold an event. “The Village of Ashcroft, Community Futures, and Interior Savings have all had community barbecues, and I thought about having a barbecue for all community members and clients as a small gesture of thanks to the community for its support.”
The barbecue was held on the same day that the food bank was open, in order to reach as many people as possible. The food bank is open from noon to 2:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month.
Susanj says that the number of people using the food bank typically declines in the summer months, and this year is no exception. The society has started tapping into donated funds in order to keep the food bank stocked, and this will continue until November, when Christmas food drives help re-stock the shelves.
“Christmas is our biggest time to fundraise. People recognize the need then.”
The food bank now has a fridge/freezer unit, thanks to a grant from Walmart through Food Banks Canada, which allows them to make fresh food available. Susanj says that from now through the fall people drop off excess fruit and vegetables from their own gardens, and there is also produce from the community garden, which was established in 2016 and is open to anyone. All they ask is that anyone who takes produce do a little bit of weeding or watering to keep the garden in good shape.
“We’re very excited because we now have worms in the garden,” says Susanj. “There’s usually someone there every day, and it’s good to see that movement. It’s going really well.
“We’ve never had any problems with vandalism. I came in one day and there were tomatoes all over the ground, but we realized that it was crows that had pulled them off; they had beak marks in them.”
Susanj says that with the passing of the first anniversary of the Elephant Hill wildfire, the level of stress has gone down. In addition to the services provided at the office, SCEFS has been going out to the Ashcroft Reserve twice a month, partnering with the band on a community kitchen program.
“Two Mondays a month we go to the health unit there and make lunch for anyone who wants to come. A driver brings people there who are still living in hotels.” The program will continue through September, after which SCEFS will be holding a monthly coffee hour at the health unit.
She says that hope seems to be coming back for those who were displaced from their homes on the reserve because of the fire.
“People see houses being built, they see the new softball fields and the walking track. People are talking about what colour they’re going to paint the rooms in their house, what flowers they’re going to plant in the garden. Things are moving forward and there’s planning for the future.”