“It started as a short-term project, but we still need it”: An interview with Kerry Kaiser, coordinator at the Centretown Emergency Food Centre

DSC02439by K. Burr, Chair CCSAC and Kerry Kaiser

Tell us a bit about the Food Centre’s operation.

The centre began in 1978 as a short-term project! Unfortunately, we still have a job to do.

We serve those in need in the Centretown area bordered by Wellington Street on the north, Billings Bridge to the south, Lyon Street to the west and Main Street, including Lees Avenue, to the east.

While the nature of our clientele has shifted over the years and the demographics of our catchment area have changed, demand for food from people living on social assistance, with disabilities and on low-income jobs has remained throughout the years and, in recent years, has started to grow again.

And what about you – why do you do this?

I have been working at the Centretown Emergency Food Centre for over 30 years and I feel honoured to work with the volunteers and the clients. Every day, I see miracles and watch the volunteers make a positive impact in someone’s life.

Every month, we offer our clients a three-to-four day food supply, depending on their family size.

Tell us about your volunteers.

We are very lucky that most of our volunteers have been here long term and, when we recruit new volunteers, we ask our member churches first and they usually fill the void. But we have volunteers from all walks of life and all ages.

We have students, retired individuals, stay-at-home moms, people who do shift work, government employees on volunteer days, and volunteers recruiting their neighbours. As with everything else in the centre, when we have a need it seems to fill itself.

And what about your clients?

In the past few years, we have seen an increase in working poor families and a large jump in parents with children accessing our services. We serve all of our neighbours who are in need, including new Canadians, the old and the young, people on benefits, those who have mental and physical challenges, people who have just lost their jobs, seasonal workers and those in the three emergency shelters in our catchment area.

Where do you get your support?

We get our support from the Centretown Church Social Action Committee, member churches, the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Food Bank, local schools and businesses and individuals.

Our local grocery stores support us by allowing our volunteers to do several food drives on their premises each year, and they were all active as sponsors for last year’s walk-a-thon.

Contact Kerry: contact@centretownchurches.org or cefc@bellnet.ca.