A lot happens at 102 Maple AV in Barrie. This busy house is home to Elizabeth Fry Society, its workers and its members.

The basement of the building houses one of this community's biggest outreach programs... the Grocery Assistance Program. Yes, it's a second 'food bank' and quite necessary for a city this size.

Paula King, executive director of E Fry, has spent her life working on behalf of clients who've started out with less. After 15 years in probation and parole, starting a Simcoe County Elizabeth Fry program for women in the correctional system was the next logical step to making a lasting community contribution.

Paula does have a normal life. She's got kids and a husband and she's putting some time in to take her Masters degree this year. But, behind 'normal' is care for people who have less than they need. Paula told me that the Grocery Assistance Program this year will serve between 8 and 9000 people. Half of those are children. It's their third year of operation.

The group, headed by representatives from HELP (Homeless Emergency Link for People), Elizabeth Fry, Biin Baan, Youth Haven, David Busby Centre, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, and Barrie Out of The Cold, wanted to fill the 'gap' and offer extended hours for people whose cupboards are bare.

With a three year Trillium Foundation grant for one worker, a walkin freezer and a large fridge, the Grocery Assistance Program was born. That was in 2005. That year, food went to 1,479 people. Two years later the number is five times that and the need continues to grow.

The month of June saw 690 people come through the doors.

Paula says that most are not frequent users but need help to get by. A high utilities bill will literally eat up the food budget! A school cost for a child will make a parent face a tough decision. The busy, very full basement at E. Fry is the only answer for them.

This group is run by volunteers and the E. Fry staff. Food drives and help from some of the Catholic schools, Zehrs, Rock 95, Canada Revenue Agency, Barrie Police, Alladin Banquet, Meridian Credit Union and others contribute to fill the shelves.

Cash donations are used to buy milk and perishables food vouchers for people.

People usually apply for help over the phone and while the Grocery Program operates week days from 9 am to 4 pm, orders will be assembled for after-hours pickup. Many of those needing help are holding down one or two jobs and getting to the assistance location during business hours is next to impossible.

While half of those using the program are children, many are seniors, the other end of the scale. For older people on fixed incomes, many who are raising grandchildren full time, an old age security cheque just doesn't go very far.

This valuable service has its hand out now for donations of food. Canned meats and fish, Kraft dinner, pasta and pasta sauce, cereal, powdered milk, pancake mix and syrup, canned vegetables and fruit... this really helps stock the shelves. Crackers, soup, juice, snacks for kids' lunches... it's all like gold.

Paula says they are also grateful for leftover items from a company picnic, or party. Often companies ask their employees to 'donate' their Christmas company turkey or ham to a needy family and frozen meat is really welcome and easily accommodated at the walk in freezer at 102 Maple AV.

And in the personal care department things like deodorant, shampoo, women's personal hygiene items (such as tampons), toothpaste, powder etc are so welcome. Hand cream, foot cream ... these are truly treats. This food program has been the happy recipient of cash donations designated by a bride and groom who feel they have enough and ask their guests to recognize their event in this meaningful way.

The Grocery Assistance Program has an open hand, an open heart and is eager to have donations of goods or cash from area organizations and individuals. They put every penny to good use!

Thanks, Paula, for helping spearhead this most important service.






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Grocery Assistance Program
102 Maple AVE
705 725-0613

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