Calgary Cares: Stampede Foundation volunteers with Centre for Newcomers meal support initiative

Click to play video: 'Stampede Foundation supports centre for newcomers in community initiative' Stampede Foundation supports centre for newcomers in community initiative
WATCH: Volunteers from the Calgary Stampede Foundation have stepped up to support the Centre for Newcomers with food hamper deliveries for new Canadian families in need. Jessie Weisner reports – Jun 16, 2020

Since March 26, the Calgary Centre for Newcomers has been providing meal support for new Canadians in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, the centre has delivered more than 630 food hampers to families consisting mostly of four or five people.

The hampers contain roughly two weeks of food, with basic food items, including rice, sugar and pasta. The items are also adjusted based on cultural, religious and allergy or dietary restrictions.

“These food hampers are culturally appropriate,” president and CEO of the centre, Anila Lee Yuen said.

“They will include very specific food items that will make your family feel very comfortable.”

READ MORE: Calgary Cares: Helping new immigrants deal with COVID-19

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Families who receive help are clients of the centre and mainly consist of new Canadians. Some have tested positive for COVID-19 — others are awaiting test results.

“They may not have any other family members, they may not have any other social supports. Many of them don’t qualify for CERB or any other kind of income support as well, so they really have a lot of barriers,” Lee Yuen said.

An employee with the centre, Moushmi Khanna, said the clients have been very grateful for the services the centre has been able to provide throughout the pandemic.

“They just cry and then send the centre a thank you note saying we are really doing a good job.”

The workload to maintain deliveries has been significant and some employees at the centre have been volunteering outside of their work hours.

“We’ve typically had a handful of volunteers come in to assist us with the food hampers, but mostly it’s been staff that have been participating out of their regular jobs,” Lee Yuen said.

“Now we are working from home, our office is closed for the clients. So out of my job I just come here to help them for a few hours and then go back home,” Khanna added.

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READ MORE: Canada will need newcomers after coronavirus pandemic, immigration minister says

To relieve some of that workload, the centre has partnered with numerous organizations, community groups and local businesses. The latest group to step up and offer a helping hand is the Calgary Stampede Foundation.

“It’s been really great to get some reprieve, and also to build some community spirit and have some friends that we partner with quite often, such as the Calgary Stampede Foundation,” Lee Yuen said.

Ten to 15 Stampede Foundation volunteers head to the centre each Tuesday to pack hampers and deliver food to families in need.

READ MORE: 2020 Calgary Stampede cancelled for first time in over 100 years amid COVID-19

With the cancellation of the 2020 Calgary Stampede, volunteers are in abundance and are very eager to help out in their community.

“We were kind of given a few slots to come and bring some Stampede volunteers in and they filled up right away,” a volunteer with the foundation, Stephanie Meyer said.

“It was nice to see, you almost had to fight for your spot to come down and lend a hand.”

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With community support, the Centre for Newcomers delivers up to 30 hampers each day.

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