Pandemic impacts on the House of Lazarus

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The House of Lazarus (HOL) in Mountain is a community outreach mission providing food, clothing, household goods, and a wide variety of community programs to people in both North Grenville and North Dundas. The ongoing pandemic has made operations challenging on many levels.

The HOL operates a thrift store in Mountain with clothes and household goods, and a clothing store in Ingleside. Donated items are sold to raise funds to support their numerous community programs. Currently, they are back to accepting donations of clothing and household items at the drop off area in Mountain, but this is dependent on weather and space. Check their Facebook page for the most up to date information about donations.

HOL initially had to lay staff off as their stores closed. Many of the community outreach programs cannot run because of Covid-19 pandemic protocols. This is leaving many people without services that they rely on, such as nutritious food through programs such as Dinner on the House, or Lunch and Learn, but it also leaves them without valuable contact and support. Currently, the food bank and Operation Backpack, the schools’ nutrition program, are still running. Operation Backpack provides snacks, lunches, and suppers to school-aged children, with funding assured until the end of August. HOL encourages anyone with school-aged children to reach out for assistance through this nutrition program.

Although HOL has lost revenue from their thrift stores being closed, there has been a great deal of financial support from various levels of government, grants, and the community. The community has been incredible in supporting HOL foodbank throughout the pandemic. Service clubs and individuals have donated, people have purchased bags of food through Foodland, and HOL benefited from funds raised through Giving Tuesday. HOL accessed grants and funding opportunities through Foodbanks Canada, and Feed Ontario, as well as from all levels of government. There was more financial support for foodbanks than ever before. This support has meant that the foodbanks can continue, but it doesn’t make up for the loss of community outreach programs.

Only 25% of people who need foodbanks actually use them. That means that 75% of the people who need nutrition support from a foodbank do not reach out for assistance. There is a deep desire to leave assistance to “those who really need it,” leaving many people hungry and suffering food insecurity needlessly.

Cathy Ashby, Executive Director of HOL, admits “it’s hard to answer the phones some days, to hear the need.” But she encourages anyone to please reach out and call. From the fall-out of the 2008 recession, we know that foodbank use will peak two years after a crisis. That means that people are hanging on for long after the initial crisis, hoping that things will get better. Cathy says,” don’t wait.” Call when you need food. HOL has food for you. You don’t need to choose between food and rent.

At the end of June, HOL hopes to be able to provide a take-out supper on Wednesday evenings, similar to the Dinner on the House, except it will be take-out. The kitchen in the foodbank in South Mountain, formerly the Scotiabank, has been inspected and certified as a community kitchen, allowing meals to be prepared there.

Currently the HOL Community Garden is mostly planted. Seedlings have been donated by BMR Winchester, Forget-Me-Not Herbs & Flowers in Oxford Mills, Manotick Garden Supply, and the Dundas 4H Club. If anyone is growing an extra row in their own gardens, HOL will gratefully accept donations for the foodbank. They work closely with Community Food Share that serves North and South Dundas, and North and South Stormont. They also form part of the North Dundas Housing Initiative.

Over the last 15 months, as the store has opened, then closed in response to government closure orders, HOL has done some renovations in an attempt to make the store space more “Covid-friendly.” Looking forward, hoping that they can open up by mid June, the store will be allowed 15% capacity, which even in the renovated space will let only a couple of people in the store at once. They are planning on having as much merchandise outside as possible.

Currently HOL is providing help filing tax returns to those in need through their CRA Volunteer Income Tax Program. Call 613 989 3830 or 613 612 3830 to make an appointment for assistance with tax returns, or to visit the foodbank.

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