The Lake Country Food Assistance Society has been given the keys to the new food bank building, completing a process that took five years to constructing a new facility for the community.
More than a hundred people crammed into the brand new, 2,600 square foot food bank Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the culmination of a community project that raised the new building from the ground up with donations of money, supplies, grants and good old hard work.
It was a project put together by the Rotary Club, which five years ago began to investigate the possibility of finding a new home and last March broke ground on the building, valued at $1 million.
“It’s just so amazing we were able to get it done in the time-frame,” said Bob Rymarchuk of the Lake Country Rotary Club. “We put the shovels in the ground without knowing we had enough money to do the job. It was a leap of faith.”
The shovels went into the ground just months after Rotary had won a $100,000 grant from Aviva Insurance and the grant was enough to push Rotary ahead with the end goal in sight. Still there was plenty of fundraising to go, even as 10 students from Okanagan College began what would be 6,600 hours of work on the project.
“We had faith you know,” said Rymarchuk. “Phyllis (MacPherson) and the key people that were involved were pretty convinced the community would back us up. It’s still a pretty big commitment to build a million-dollar facility —which is what it’s really worth—and to have a third of it in place and hope like hell you could get the rest of it.”
And get the rest of it they did as the project is now virtually complete and over the next month, the Lake Country Food Assistance Society will begin moving over its operations to its first ever permanent home.
The event on Wednesday took place with heavy hearts after the death of MacPherson on Dec. 19, just days before she was going to be presented with the new building. The original founder and the heart and soul behind the food bank’s operations for more than 30 years, MacPherson left a large legacy in the community, a legacy that will live on through the work of the food assistance society, a large group of volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes.
“I can’t believe it’s really happening and we just want to say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you,” said Beverly Marsh, who first began work at the food bank in 1989. “We so much wish Phyllis could be here but thank-you so much to everybody.”
Fellow food assistance society board member Joy Haxton echoed those sentiments.
“Thanks to Rotary for sparking this,” she said. “This community was obviously always behind us and there are too many to thank. I wish this was being turned over to Phyllis but she was well aware the community was behind us and that we serve the community. Thank-you.”
As the ceremony went on, Rymarchuk stood in the back of the new building. The man who had spent so much of his time over the past five years working on the project avoided the spotlight. However his thoughts were on the community and on Phyllis MacPherson, who he had worked very closely with over the years.
“To not have Phyllis around is huge, she was a huge part of this community and we’re going to miss her,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with Phyllis over the last five years. She was ecstatic (about the building). Once we got the structure up and you could see what it was going to look like, she thought it was phenomenal. This is a great community. Honestly to live in a community like this with this kind of support, we’re in the best place in the world. How could you not love this community.”
In total over 100 local businesses supplied goods and/or services to the project while over 250 individuals made financial donations. Other major donors included the District of Lake Country which donated the land and will finish the landscaping and paving.