James Chase (l) and Joan Henderson of The Equality Project in front of new refrigeration equipment the organization received last year. (Photo credit: Gareth Smart)

James Chase (l) and Joan Henderson of The Equality Project in front of new refrigeration equipment the organization received last year. (Photo credit: Gareth Smart)

Equality Project hopes to get growing with a community garden

Organization is also looking for volunteers to help out at its Stage Road clubhouse

The Equality Project in Cache Creek is hoping to be able to get growing next year, if their application for funds for a community garden at the site is successful.

“The garden is at the planning stage,” says public relations officer Joan Henderson. “We hope to be able to get a grant for it. There are grants available for community gardens, and maybe we can start to get it going this year.”

The organization recently asked for (and received) a letter of support from the Village of Cache Creek for their grant application. The plan for the garden shows that most of it would be around the parking lot behind the clubhouse on Stage Road.

“The garden would go around the edges of the parking lot, and we might have a few boxes in front of the clubhouse as well, to pretty it up and let people see what we‘re doing. I don’t know if the front would be flowers, or if someone would have vegetables there.”

The plan is to have a number of beds that are high enough — and narrow enough across — that people who are in wheelchairs, or who have a hard time standing, can sit and work in them easily without having to move around too much. Henderson says that spots in the garden will be made available to Equality Project members first, and could be opened up to others in the community.

“If we don’t have enough members who want a box, then the whole community could be invited to come and join us. There are quite a few people who live in motels or apartments who don’t have an opportunity to have a garden. Hopefully lots of people would be interested.”

Henderson says that the Equality Project could have its own box, and is considering asking people to donate a portion of their garden bounty for use by the volunteers who provide fresh, home-cooked meals to members three days a week.

Membership costs $10 per month, and the clubhouse is open for meals and other services from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Henderson says that the number of people they feed each day has slowly been creeping up.

“Normally we feed around 40 people per day with volunteers and members, which is quite a lot for our small area. We hope to be able to open more days if we can get more volunteers.”

The organization is always looking for people able to prepare and serve meals. Henderson says volunteers do not have to have FoodSafe, and they do not have to be there three days a week; even one day is fine. While it’s appreciated if someone can work the entire five hours the clubhouse is open, that isn’t always possible, and Henderson says that’s okay.

She adds that they are also looking for committed dishwashers who are able to come in for two hours a day, even if it’s just for one day a week.

“Two hours would take care of the majority of our dishes. For the people who are doing the food to be worried about having to clean dishes as well is more than they can handle.”

The clubhouse has an Essentials Room, where members can get clothing, shoes, household items, and more, and Henderson says some help there would also be appreciated.

“We need one or two helpers to sort through the clothing and housewares that have been donated. Items we receive are stored in ‘quarantine’ for a week, and then they’re taken out and checked to make sure they’re in good enough shape to be put on the shelf before being folded and and put out.”

She adds that the organization is very fortunate to have been able to hire James Chase as a sanitizing and COVID-19 engineer, using funds from the Red Cross and United Way. “He’ll be staying until the end of the year, and we’re really happy with him. Nobody gets by him until they answer his questions and have their temperature checked.”

The Equality Project accepts donations of clothing, shoes, boots, outerwear, household items, and toys that are in good shape. Henderson says they are particularly in need of men’s clothing in small sizes, and they also take books, which are sorted through by a “librarian” before being put out. They don’t need DVDs or CDs, and while they can take some small items of furniture, they cannot take items that need to be repaired. Due to space limitations they cannot accept large pieces of furniture, or mattresses that are, as Henderson puts it, “very used”.

In fact, she says that if people have furniture they want to donate, and can keep it at their home until it’s needed, that is ideal. If you call The Equality Project and let them know what you have, the information will be kept on file. Members write down on a bulletin board what they’re in search of, and volunteers can match people with available items that way.

Campbell’s Soup labels are no longer being collected, but anyone with used ring tabs from aluminum beverage cans can bring them to the clubhouse on Stage Road and donate them; the tabs get weighed, and the organization gets a certain amount of money per pound. They also collect used postage stamps, and have partnered with Mealshare — a national social enterprise working to help end youth hunger — and the Cache Creek A&W. On “Mealshare Mondays”, customers can order a Cheddar Bacon Uncle Burger Combo, or on any day of the week can add $1 or more to their order, with 80 per cent of the funds raised staying local via a donation to The Equality Project.

Henderson says that even though restaurants have had to close their doors to in-person, indoor dining, The Equality Project has been able to continue serving meals at the clubhouse.

“Because we’re a charitable organization serving food to people, they can come in and have lunch. We’re really pleased we’ve been able to stay open.”

Anyone who would like to help out by volunteering with The Equality Project or making a donation, or who would like more information, can call (250) 457-6485 or email info@theequalityroject.ca.


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