The House of Lazarus Food Bank, operated out of the former Scotiabank building on Main Street in South Mountain, suffered terrible losses in a fire early last week. The fire occurred on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 25, and while the building is still standing with minimal damage noticeable on the outside, the inside has been damaged to the point that it will likely no longer be usable by HOL. Thankfully no one was injured in the fire.
House of Lazarus Executive Director, Cathy Ashby, confirmed that it is not yet known how the fire started, but that the insurance company is investigating. Despite the fact that the building is still standing, the relatively untouched brick exterior is misleading, as the damage inside is significant. The Times was invited to observe the interior damage. The fire started in the rear kitchen area which has equipment melted beyond recognition. The entire interior has walls damaged and covered in heavy soot, and a ceiling that had to be torn away during the firefighting process. Most disheartening off all is the large quantity of food left behind, still recognizable, yet not fit for consumption.
Luckily, some of the most expensive food stored at the Food Bank – namely, the meat – was able to be saved and is being stored at Winchester Foodland thanks to the generosity of owner Dan Pettigrew. “After the fire was out… volunteers just backed up with trucks and the firefighters brought out crate after crate of frozen food,” said Cathy. Cathy noted that all four North Dundas fire department stations responded to the blaze, and they put out the fire quite rapidly. She recalls being told that it only took about half a tanker truck full of water to extinguish the fire.
The Food Bank was able to reopen in a temporary location a short distance down the street at the Mountain Township Agricultural Hall, thanks to an offer from the local Lions Club to use their room. Plans are in place to move into a more permanent location in Mountain in about a month. The HOL does operate one other Food Bank, in Ingleside, but the main centre for food bank operations had been the location in South Mountain. “Huge losses” were therefore suffered in the fire. “It was like our main warehouse,” Cathy added.
The hardest thing about the fire is that the food stock must now be replenished. “We have to start over,” said Cathy. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, North Dundas is showing its generous side. The support from the community has been a welcome silver lining after the fire’s devastating impact. Anyone wanting to help restore this invaluable local resource can bring food donations to one of the following locations: Township of North Dundas office in Winchester, Loughlin’s Country Store in Hallville, Scotiabank (Chesterville, Kemptville, or Morrisburg), Garden Villa in Chesterville, Nationview Public School in South Mountain, Jonssons’ Your Independent Grocer in Kemptville, and the BMR location in Winchester. Canned goods were also accepted at the North Dundas Business Expo on April 29.
Interested in setting up your own food drive to help out the HOL in a time of need? You can get in touch with the HOL directly at 613-989-3830. Another great way to help out is by making a monetary donation online at https://hol.community/donate/.
Ironic that a food bank was in a building abandonned by a bank