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Government contributing $50,000 and new temporary storage facility
“It’s just been amazing. My phone hasn’t stopped all day.”
Eg Walters said he’s touched by the outpouring of support from people across the province who have made donations after fire heavily damaged the building which housed the food supply for many community food banks.
“The response has been really good, I must say,” said Walters, standing outside the Community Food Sharing Association (CFSA) warehouse on Topsail Road in Mount Pearl, where you could still smell stale smoke in the air Thursday afternoon.
With the building's side doors open, soot and water were still visable on the floor, where pallets were stacked alongside a damaged fork lift. An empty fire extinguisher clip was also on the wall.
Fire ripped through the 5,000 square-foot building just after 9 a.m. Wednesday, destroying what Walters estimates was between $300,000 and $400,000 worth of food.
The cause is being investigated.
Immediately after hearing the news, Walters, the CFSA’s executive director, said contributions began pouring in, including several from businesses across the country.
Many corporations contributed $10,000 each in cash and/or gift cards, including Scotiabank, City Wide Cabs, Chevron and the Dominion supermarket on Blackmarsh Road, while others, including Munn Insurance and Investors Group, also offered to help.
"My phone hasn’t stopped all day.” — Eg Walters
“There are a lot of groups and individuals out there (willing to pitch in),” said Walters, who said for every $10 donated, volunteers can source, box, ship and distribute $430 worth of food.
On Thursday, Premier Dwight Ball arrived at the warehouse and told Walters and reporters the government would also be helping out.
“It’s devastating news. … There is a big gap in food sharing and food sharing across our province,” said Ball, noting the valuable work Walters and his volunteer team provide.
“But I can tell by the courage, this is a resilient bunch and very persistent and they’re going to recover from this.”
To help them do that, Ball announced the government will provide $50,000 — $30,000 through the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour and $20,000 from Children, Seniors and Social Development — and will provide a new facility to house food and supplies.
He said the government was going to have Walters tour an Eastern Health building this afternoon to see if it’s appropriate.
“If it’s not appropriate, we’re just going to keep working until we find something,” he said.
“We can make the adjustments and adaptations, but it’s important now to get a storage facility in place … so when the food comes in, they’ll have a place to store it and get the distribution back in place.”
Ball said he’s not surprised by the response from communities.
“I think that will continue to grow within the next few days …” he said, adding government public sector employees have also organized food drives.
“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians always respond in this way.”
When asked his reaction to the government’s announcement, Walters said, “It’s absolutely fantastic. We’re going to be going in to look at the facility this afternoon and hopefully if it meets our needs, there’s going to be a handshake and a key exchange and we’re off to the races.”
After touring the new facility later in the afternoon, Walters told The Telegram it appeared to meet their requirements.
“It looked great to us,” said Walters, who will be meeting with insurance adjusters on Friday.
He was waiting for the arrangements to be finalized.
Until the CFSA is back up and running again, Walters is asking people in communities with food banks to try and make extra donations.
In response to the fire, St. John’s Public Libraries will be waiving overdue fines for patrons in exchange for donations of non-perishable food items at all three city branches up until Feb. 15. Donations can be made the A.C. Hunter Public Library on Allandale Road, the Marjorie Mews Public Library on Highland Drive or the Michael Donovan Public Library on Topsail Road.
The municipalities of St. John’s, Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's and Torbay will also hold a regional food drive throughout February during winter festival events to contribute to the CFSA.
Residents are encouraged to help re-stock the food bank by donating non-perishable food items when attending the following events: Snow & Ice in Paradise (Feb. 1-10), Frosty Festival in Mount Pearl (Feb. 6-17), Winter Carnival in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s (Feb. 8-17), community events in Torbay (Feb. 9-16), Chillfest in St. John’s (Feb. 14-18) and Winterfest in C.B.S. (Feb. 15-25).
On Saturday, The Telegram will be partnering with participating Sobeys supermarkets in the St. John’s and surrounding areas to collect food donations instore.
Every $10 donated translates to $430 in food distributed by the Community Food Sharing Association.