As a young mother in Calgary, Sally Cormier-Ittinuar needed her local food bank.
“I was in dire straits,” remembers the Rankin Inlet woman, who moved to the Kivalliq from New Brunswick almost two decades ago. “It was a life-saver for me. I was so grateful that the food bank was there for myself and my son, so I know what a vital service it is.”
She’s now taken over the role as “champion” of the Ikurraq Food Bank Society, a role Mary Fredlund filled for 25 years. The society had warned that the charitable organization could close if a new leader couldn’t be found.
“I saw that they were having a hard time getting somebody, so I thought well, I guess it’s my time to step up and try to make a difference, try to do what (Fredlund) does,” said Cormier-Ittinuar, who couldn’t heap enough praise on the community work Fredlund had contributed.
“She is the real champion behind the food bank. She’s the kindest, most non-judgmental person out there, very giving,” she said. “She’s just an amazing person, and we were blessed with her.”
Those shoes will be hard to fill, “but we sure will try,” said Cormier-Ittinuar.
The food bank serves 40 to 60 people per week. Everyone from Elders to families use the services. Some families are quite large, with more than a dozen people in one house, and “they just need that little extra to help them get through the week,” Cormier-Ittinuar said.
Currently, she’s spending about three evenings a week at the food bank, which is entirely run by volunteers. The staff’s philosophy is to offer a safe, welcoming and non-judgemental place where anyone can come for help.
If Cormier-Ittinuar could dream, she wishes the food bank had a larger building, so the thrift store could be on its own side and in its own space.
“Right now, we have to put everything away for the food bank, store it in a room and then on Saturdays, we run the thrift store, so it’s kind of overlapping in the same spot,” she said.
And if she could shoot for the moon, she’d like to have a building big enough to run programs like parka-making and youth activities.
For now, Cormier-Ittinuar is learning the ropes and looks forward to incorporating some new ideas down the road.
“I think it’s running smoothly right now,” she said. “I’m just going to keep it at the same pace and go from there.”