by Brandon Mayer,
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
North Grenville has seen many significant changes in the last few decades, but some things – like the Knights of Columbus food bank and their Sweetheart Brunch fundraiser – have stood the test of time. The question of what makes a food bank tick, particularly when it has been in operation for three decades, is one that was posed to three Knights who spoke with the Times. The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization that supports area parishes, churches, priests, and the community as a whole.
Grand Knight, Michel Blais, told the Times that, as a charitable organization locally, the Knights provide resources non-denominationally, supporting a variety of organizations, including the Kemptville Hospital, the Beth Donovan Hospice, seniors groups, and the Legion. Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman, who is also a Knights member, noted that the organization also provides bursaries and donations to smaller charities that may not get as much exposure, such as Ryan’s Well.
“I think our overhead is peanuts,” Jim said. “All the money that comes in goes, basically, back out.” Fellow Knights member, David Habberjam, is dedicated to the food bank, which is run by the local chapter of the Knights. Food is donated, and money is raised in the form of donations and fundraisers. David takes on much of the work involved in distributing food resources to those in the community who need it the most. There is no discrimination when it comes to the distribution of food – decisions about who gets food are never made based on religious beliefs or other such factors.
The Knights’ food bank does not strictly ration resources – those who call are given enough food to last about two weeks, but they are free to call back if they run out. David is continually adapting the way the food bank is run to meet the needs of the community. For example, donations of less common items, such as feminine hygiene products and pet food, occasionally come in, and while they are not usually included in food deliveries, those who need them can certainly ask for them.
And, while food banks normally only give out items that they are given, David is working on “feeding the demand” for those with specific health requirements, such as gluten-free items. This is a relatively new initiative this year, and David is hoping to use fundraising money to purchase specific lists of products as requested by patrons. One point to make, however, is that it is a joint effort.
“Just to be clear, I don’t do fundraising,” David joked. “These guys go and get it, and I just spend it.” David credited Jim as one of the most active fundraisers for the Knights. When it was pointed out that there is a perceived increase of food bank operations around Christmas time, Jim was able to provide a simple explanation for this. Some families who would not normally need supplies from the food bank, but who are living on a very tight budget throughout the year, may suddenly have an extra need for help during the Christmas season because of extra expenses, such as Christmas gifts for their children.
Many readers may be wondering about the Sweetheart Brunch, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community over the years. Last year’s live event was cancelled, as is this year’s, due to pandemic restrictions; but donations are still sought in the spirit of the event. Last year marked the 23rd annual Sweetheart Brunch, raising over $18,000, and the Knights are hoping for a similarly positive result for this year’s 24th annual event, since, if one thing is certain, it is that all funds raised will go right back out into the community!