Thursday, December 16, 2010

An empty food bank and incredible people

Its 3:43 PM on Monday, December 13th, and as I'm wrapping up my work day I see a note pop up on Facebook from local social media guru Dave Teixeira. Dave is posting an email he received from Heather at SHARE society about the dimished supply of food for the Christmas hampers in the SHARE warehouse. I have been in fairly regular contact with Martin at SHARE over the past few weeks, so I'm aware of the shortage, but frankly, unaware that it has escaled to the level that it has - the food bank is expecting to service a need for over 1600 Tri City residents this year @ Christmas, and their current inventory is depleted to the 'sub 500' level.
It's a crisis in waiting. I have always supported SHARE and value so much the work that they do in the community, and this news is horrible news to receive getting so close to Christmas.
What to do ? Immediately, I update my web site to include the information from SHARE. On Sunday I had posted a facebook event for the CPR Holiday train, which benefits SHARE, so I check out the status of the 'event' and I see only 3 people 'attending' . Obviously this isn't going to be much of a 'conduit' for passing on the information. I contact Martin at SHARE to get the info on what is needed and the details on the scope of the situation - unfortunately, no good news there. I tell Martin that I will be sure to include an appeal on SHARE's behalf at our council meeting the following night.
8:04 PM - Dave updates his facebook page with a link to an article by Chris Parry at the Vancouver Sun. Dave has contacted Chris and forwarded him the information and used his 'influence' , and I imagine friendship, with Chris to get this story published within 5 hours of hearing from Heather. CKNW is carrying the story on the radio. Dave has used his flair for social media to elevate this situation from a 'local' tri cities basis to literally MILLIONS of people through the lower mainland.
6:00 AM Tuesday - I roll out of bed , put on CKNW as I do every morning and the SHARE story is top of the news. CBC is carrying the story, as is GLOBAL TV. Heather is on the 6:00 AM news, live feed from the empty food bank warehouse in Port Moody. Dave's talent and connections have elevated this story now to the number one story in the Metro Vancouver news - in about 12 hours - at a time when BC Politics has been dominating the headlines. REMARKABLE. The story is being repeated , by all the media, seemingly every 5 minutes !!
10:22 AM Tuesday - Dave posts on Facebook that he has Canucks/Columbus tickets for Wednesday night available if anyone wants them. OK, seems unremarkable, and unrelated ? NOT AT ALL - Dave is giving up his Canucks tickets (which, if you know Dave, he would likely have used to woo an undetermined 'blonde' to accompany him) because on Wednesday he has committed to work with Heather and the crew at SHARE on the Christmas hampers.
A quick scan of Facebook status updates shows Dave's 'network' of friends are all reposting his post about the urgent need at SHARE.
4:51 PM - Dave updates his facebook page and blog with more on the story, including the tv coverage , and announcing that CKNW has mobilized , in what has to be the quickest response ever, to support a food drive event at Save On Foods in Coquitlam on Wednesday afternoon.
9:00 PM - As i sit at our regular council meeting, I dedicate my council report to the SHARE food bank crisis and implore those that can to support SHARE in any way they can at this crucial time. Also mentioning the CPR Holiday train on Friday as not only a great time but another opportunity to support SHARE. Sadly, we have only a handful of people at our council meeting, but we do have the local press and SHAW TV coverage, so , maybe some people will hear this.. but i doubt it will be very many.
11:00 PM - Watching the GLOBAL news final and the SHARE story continues to get top coverage. I send a message off to Dave... in a nutshell "Dave, you are a media god"
6:00 AM Wednesday - wake up, put on CKNW , again, SHARE food bank crisis leading the way, now with the added appeal of asking for residents to do what they can and to stop by the SAVE ON FOODS on Pinetree between 3 and 7PM to make a donation. Gord MacDonald will be broadcasting on location.
Throughout the day the story continues to dominate the news - the local media, and the media personalities are embracing the drive. How quickly has this story gone from a bad news to a good news story :)
3:44 PM - I stop at home to 'water my dog' before heading off to SAVE ON, and Dave has posted on his facebook page "Holy Crap! The food and money is already rolling in here for the Tri Cities Food Bank !" As I head over to SAVE ON , I hear Gord, Dave, Heather, Mark Madryga, Steve Darling on the radio from the site - great to see the celebrities lending their 'star power' to this event. I'm not sure if they know how much that is worth, but I sure do !
4:20 PM - arriving at Save On - CKNW truck is parked out front, groceries are piled up everywhere, volunteers are doing an incredible job. Gord MacDonald continues with the updates and interviews on the radio. John Wolff , SHARE society board chair is here, Heather Scott, Director of Development and so well known as the 'public' face of SHARE is here, Martin Wyant , Executive Directory of SHARE is here (more on that later !). So many staff and volunteers from SHARE that I don't know their names are here. Chris Wilson is here working tirelessly boxing up the donations.
Sometime after 5, the SHARE truck pulls up to collect the 'first run' of donations to shuttle back into Port Moody. I join the volunteers, including Steve Darling , Mark Madryga, John Wolff, Heather, Martin, Chris, the CKNW production staff, everyone pitching in to box up and load the donations into the truck.
OH - did I mention - in the middle of it all, in his never ending positive, energetic way - Dave Teixeira - chatting up the people making donations, helping out the volunteers, doing radio interviews, and co-ordinating with his ECCW team for the 'hamper assembly line' taking place later in the evening. Less than 100 metres from a KFC, but Dave is focused on the task at hand :)
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and City Councillor Selina Robinson arrive - Richard, as always, with his camera, his smile and his energy ! Thank god he has his camera, and I get him to snap a shot of me and Mark Madryga - Mark is my favorite local media personality and I'm so glad to have gotten the picture. The truck, fully loaded heads off to Port Moody to unload and then return.
Selina has brought with her a donation she has collected from the firehall and the two of us head into the store to 'go shopping'. Cool - Selina was with SHARE for many years and she knows how this works - this will be fun ! Strikes me while we are in the store, that canned food is really expensive ! When did this happen ? I have to say, having run a warehouse for many years that moved alot of canned food, I have a bit of a stigma for it - and fortunately, living in BC and being fortunate to maintain a steady income, i enjoy fresh meat products and vegetables. $ 3.50 for a small can of chicken/tuna/salmon. $ 4.50 for a small can of corned beef. HOLY COW ! We find the 'warehouse pack' row and load up our cart - able to get the discounts of the warehouse packs many of the items come down to the $ 1 / can range - trying to guestimate if we are around the amount of the fire fighters donation... we go through the till and we were $ 1.87 over !! Selina pays the difference and I keep her quarter from the shopping cart (but dont tell her !) We wheel the cart out towards the exit - when i had originaly arrived I did not come in the store and was working outside helping box and load the goods into the truck so I had no idea what was going on in the store. We are having trouble getting through all the 'random carts' lined up along the inside front of the store, but I'm not paying a great deal of attention as we are talking to Heather and Richard and the fairly steady stream of people going by saying 'Hi Mike ! Good job ! ' (simultaeously makes you feel amazing and embarrassed, as I'm certainly not responsible for any of this but glad I could help out).
As I look for somewhere to 'park the cart' I realize that all of these carts - probably 40-50 carts OVERFLOWING with groceries, as well as about 8-10 dollies (the freight/pallet kind of dollies) lined up here are ALL donations for the foodbank. Chris Wilson is working on cashier number 8 (I dont actually know what number) , boxing and boxing and boxing the donations. Cases of beans, chilli, canned meats and meals - so much stuff, I wonder if Save On will have any food left for their 'regular' customers !
Back outside, so many cars driving through the parking lot stop, roll down their windows and hand us a wad of bills - $ 10, $ 20 , $ 50 . People open their hearts and their wallets - its just so great to see. A young girl jumps out of a car and drops two jars of coins - pennies, dimes, quarters - jumps back in the car and is gone. A young fellow gets out his dad's van, runs over and gives $ 40 - his dad yells from the van ' Merry Christmas Everyone , and thank you for all that you are doing '
6:00 PM - The second truck is arriving and the volunteers are concerned that they don't have alot to load into it yet. I'm the bearer of good news - like me, they had NO IDEA of all the groceries lined up inside, I point them in the direction and there is an instant elevation of excitement. I help Selina load up some water in her car for the 'work party' later at the warehouse, and I have to leave - heading off to dinner with the Transportation Committee, another great group of people volunteering their time to help out in their community. I make my personal 'year end' cash donation to SHARE and I head off. Smiling... and humming a christmas tune.
Tuesday was council day, and not a particularly good council day. In fact , a day where some of the WORST of what's wrong with politics was going on around me and I left Tuesday night wondering why I do this.
Wednesday was, quite honestly, one of the best days I've had since joining city council in 2005 - so many examples of what is right with the world and good about the people I serve in Port Moody and our neighbouring communities.
Mark Madryga - from White Rock - out in the tri cities supporting the food bank, and Steve Darling - local celebrity, supporting the food bank. Both loading boxes, bags, etc, and bringing out their 'star power'.
Gord MacDonald - hitting the listeners hard every couple minutes to come out and support the foodbank
Richard Stewart and Selina Robinson - two good hearted people that always seem to do the right thing
Heather Scott, John Wolff and the team from SHARE - these people do this 365 days a year ! Holy cow - thank you isnt anywhere near enough !
CKNW production staff - out there loading up boxes and keeping the positive energy
Save On Foods - are you kidding, wow - the support was unbelievable
Coast Capital and the other corporate donators - I dont have a list, but great support from the businesses in our community.
All of the residents of the Tri Cities - I live in the best city in the world, and the 2nd and 3rd best are our neighbours ! (Sorry, no , its not a tie, but its close !!) So many smiling faces , and so great to see so many people that I knew, and some that I didn't but that knew me !! Thank you , thank you , thank you everyone !!
And, now, as promised above - Martin Wyant - Executive Director of SHARE. Martin is a recent transplant to our region and really is still getting his feet wet, with the monumental task of filling the shoes of Joanne Granek, which is impossible - but.. .Martin was out early in the day doing media and fund raising for the society and was wearing a suit and tie. He was running late and so rather than going back home to change and coming back to Save On, he went next door to Marks Work Warehouse , and bought a shirt and a pair of jeans and headed over to help load up boxes and trucks. Apparantly the selection wasn't 'all that' but great story, and great committment ! Welcome to the Tri Cities Martin !
Saving the best for last - Dave Teixeira, what a superstar ! . ECCW wrestling. UFC promoter. Social Media GURU !!
Started Wrestling with Hunger in ECCW a couple of years ago, brings the ECCW crew out to assemble the hampers !
Dave is a miracle - he has the biggest heart, the most positive attitude and honestly , is just the nicest guy. Positively SELFLESS and gives so much back !
Hard to believe he ran for PoCo city council and didn't get elected ?! Oh well, a net benefit for the rest of us I guess as that likely would have consumed much of his valuable time.
CPR Holiday Train - Friday December 17 - 9:00 PM arrival at Port Moody (Queens Street at Clarke) - Bring a donation for SHARE !