Abluqta Society member Erin Strachan was quite impressed with the efforts of Maple Ridge, B.C., teenagers Eleora Cox and Matthew Cox in having 44 boxes of food and other necessities items donated and shipped to Bake Lake this past month.
She hopes that effort will demonstrate to folks in Baker Lake how a solid base of reliable local volunteers would help the society become more effective moving forward.
Strachan has been trying to get more residents in the community to realize the benefits come full circle when they make the decision to put in a few hours each month volunteering with the society — and she quickly adds that many hands make light work.
“We posted their efforts on the Abluqta Facebook page and, when I checked it this past Wednesday or Thursday I think it was, that post had been viewed, shared and liked more than 16,000 times,” said Strachan.
“So there’s been a pretty big response from the people in Baker Lake going on the page and saying things like thank you for caring and helping our community so much.
“I think it’s even more appreciated right now with Covid active in the Kivalliq, even though there’s no cases in Baker right now, and Covid has really impacted our food bank services too, making us move to a voucher system.”
Strachan said the voucher system has been less than perfect, but the society has been getting the job done serving the community.
She said the society has been trying its hardest to make sure the food vouchers get to the people in the community who really need it the most.
“We’ve been experimenting with this voucher model and what we found was you tell people on Facebook that there’s food bank vouchers at the thrift store and it seems like everyone in the community comes to get their voucher.
“People have to understand if they go down there and get a $75 food voucher that they don’t really need — they have a pay cheque and could use their own money to pay for those groceries — then, what they’re doing is taking food out of the mouth of some people who are literally starving.
“I think people sometimes look at Abluqta and think, ‘Oh great, you got $500,000 from Agnico Eagle,’ but they don’t really understand what that means.
“Yes, we got $500,000, but that’s over five years funding our enterprise and every time we hold a food bank that’s $12,000, so if we hold a food bank every month, our money’s gone without even talking about our staff, rent and the other costs of running our business.”
Strachan said the society is trying to communicate to the community on how much things cost and be really clear about who is eligible to come when they use the voucher system.
She said making the who is eligible distinction is far from easy, because the society really doesn’t want to be too strict about it.
“There can always be contributing circumstances to why someone’s working but still may need to use the food bank, and we don’t ever want to discourage anyone who really needs it from coming.”
Strachan said there’s also the fact the enterprise can’t run without volunteers and Abluqta struggles so much when not enough people in the community come out to lend a hand.
She said it stings when the society goes on the community page to announce it’s holding a traditional food bank and needs volunteers to come out and help and not a single person shows up.
“The majority of our new board are local Inuit, so we’re in a good position in terms of our governance but we may have to look at changing out model in a way to ensure we have a more solid volunteer base moving forward.
“We eventually want the community to own this enterprise, so I see having people understand the associated costs and the amount of work that’s involved are two priorities to be addressed right now.”