Penticton, B.C. marks 1 year anniversary for community fridge and pantry

Penticton residents Dave Corbeil and Allison Howard built and opened the space just a month after the idea first came to mind. Taya Fast / Global News

It’s been a year since Penticton, B.C.’s community fridge and pantry opened. Co-founders Allison Howard and Dave Corbeil say it’s been a busy first year.

The Purple Pantry is a barrier-free outdoor space located in front of the Elks Club on Ellis Street.  People can access food and hygiene products donated by the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s good that it is used so much but the difficulty is that we simply can’t keep up. It’s just the hard reality of how many people are using it, but it is good to know that we are helping,” said co-founder Corbeil.

“One of the neat things is the interactions with the people who are really needing help. They are incredibly polite, incredibly thankful. They take very little.  We had a guy come the other day, we filled up his bags and he left and said you’ve answered my prayers.”

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Corbeil feels the project has been well received by the community. As the space relies on a ‘take what you need and give what you can’ system, local organizations have stepped up to help fill the gap.

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“The incredible generosity of the businesses who have done food collections or money collections for us, people we don’t even know. Somehow this project is touching the right nerve for a lot of people in the community, which makes us feel good,” said Corbeil.

“It’s been an enriching experience. We have a far greater sense of connection within the community. We have no idea all the people who put stuff in it but that is the way you want it to be — the community to help fill it.”

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On Sunday, community members, local officials, and pantry volunteers gathered at the Purple Pantry to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

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“It’s a little idea that when it came to us everyone was cautiously optimistic, but I think the success comes down to the people that initiated the project, Dave and Allison and their band of volunteers, they’ve done just a fantastic job,” said Penticton’s Mayor Julius Bloomfield.

“City council is good at implementing the big ideas and initiatives but we’re not very good at the small ones. A healthy community, a vibrant community is made up of both big and small incentives. We are very proud to have people like Dave and Allison and their volunteers as being part of this community.”

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