Many people in Cache Creek are probably unaware of The Equality project, which has been operating in the community since October 2014. However, the organization looks set to raise its profile now that it has acquired the former Jehovah’s Witness Hall on Stage Road, which will allow them to expand their operations and provide even more services to low-income families and those in need.
Executive Director Shelley Magwood says 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.
“A few ladies had a dream, and saw the need,” says board member Joan Henderson; and thus The Equality Project was born. Its mission is to provide low income people with wholesome food, basic essentials, and encouragement, and to help provide a way for them to make and sell products to increase their income. To date the group has provided 700 hot soup lunches and more than 1,400 prepared, frozen meals to people who need them. Their new home, however, will allow them to do much more.
The new kitchen at the site will give volunteers a place to prepare meals that can be frozen and then given to those in need. Within the next month they will also be able to offer homemade soup and a bun on a Tuesday to anyone who comes by. The main room will be used for dining, and also, in time, as a place for people to get together and socialize, says Henderson.
“We already have 30 to 40 people who are being helped, some on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. And we’re here to help transient people as well.” The group is now working on setting up a space where donated items such as clothing, household goods, and furniture can be displayed, and where people can come and take what they need.
They would also like to set up a “man cave”, where men can gather to do woodwork or carving, or just socialize with others. “There are a lot of lonely men in the area,” says Henderson. “We want to help them physically, mentally, and spiritually, if they have that need.”
Transportation is a large part of what they provide. “It’s a huge issue,” says board member Karyne Marques. “There’s no easy way for people to get around here, so we drive people to Ashcroft and Kamloops. They have to get to the food bank, or to the doctor, or to see a specialist. There’s a real need for the service.”
The group works with Better at Home to coordinate services and identify people who need assistance. They are also able to help people find out where to get the services they need. “Everyone on the board has a different background and different knowledge,” says Marques, which means that they are able to draw on that to help those who come to them.
While The Equality Project is located in Cache Creek, the group tries to reach out through the entire area. “We don’t want to go out too far, though,” says Henderson. “There’s so much to do here.”
In order to access the services the group provides, a person must be a member, which costs $5.00 per month or $60.00 per year. Henderson notes, however, that people can take out sponsor memberships. It means that if someone who needs help is destitute, he or she can be given a sponsor membership and receive the assistance they need.
The group is looking for donations of items for the kitchen, such as stoves, a fridge, and a commercial dishwasher, in addition to donations of clothing, housewares, and of course food. “Our basic purpose is to give people enough food,” says Henderson. “One man said after Christmas last year that if it hadn’t been for The Equality Project, he would have starved.”
Anyone who would like to donate to the group, purchase a membership, or volunteer their time should call (250) 457-6485. Everyone is welcome to be a member; there are no age restrictions. As Magwood says, “It’s all about people helping people.”