PENTICTON - The Christmas season and the accompanying generosity and goodwill that goes along with it has been over for a couple of months now, but that doesn’t mean the need for charity has diminished in the community.
Whether its Christmas or not, those in need can continue to count on the Penticton Community Soupateria Society to provide lunches as they have done for the last 29 years, for those in need in the city.
President Keray Levant said 70 per cent of the annual cost of their operations comes from cash donations, most of those cash donations coming from the soupateria’s annual Toonie Campaign, which runs from November 15 to December 31.
“Seventy per cent of the food and serving items we use are donated, the rest we purchase,” Levant said, adding the society receives the odd estate bequest and random donations through the rest of the year to see them through.
Volunteers using their own vehicles and fuel make regular pickup runs to Summerland and Penticton IGA, Tim Hortons, Save On Foods, Bench Market, Nature’s Fare, Cobs Bread and Starbucks for food donations. Other food donations could come from a variety of sources - including a Kaleden orchardist who once brought four cases of apples, or a Keremeos apple grower who donated 40 gallons of apple juice.
“Periodically, people will drop by and hand us a cheque for $50 or $100,” Levant said.
Last year the Soupateria served more than 45,000 lunches. Levant said other than for a spike in numbers in 2008, when the number of lunches increased by 4,000 over the previous year, the annual numbers have levelled off. He said last year’s numbers were actually 400 lunches less than the previous year’s.
Patrons of the Soupateria sign in as they take their meal, to allow the society to track the number of people they serve.
“The third week of the month we generally see fewer numbers, as that’s when social welfare cheques are delivered, and people have a little more money,” Levant said. “We also see numbers rise in late summer and fall with the arrival of orchard workers in the area.” He said on average the soupateria serves 125 people per day.
Six church affiliated groups help provide seven volunteers each day to work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers also come from various community groups or as individual volunteers. Several local businesses also take days in which they help provide the service.
On Feb. 27, employees of the Real Canadian Superstore prepared and served 135 lunches at the soupateria. Store Manager Rick Dunsmore said the company wants to be part of the community, and hope to be able to provide “a lot of people, a lot of the time.”
Those that volunteered were not interested in the publicity, Dunsmore said, they wanted to help out in the community.
“It went really fast today, it was awesome,” he said.
“They have a great system here. Today was fast and furious.”
Those interested in volunteering at the Soupateria should contact Keray Levant at: 778-476-0791.
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