Edmonton’s Meals Financial institution receives $10,000 to help shoppers

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A healthy deposit to Edmonton’s Food Bank will help the organization serve more clients struggling with the rising cost of living.

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Ukrainian Canadian Social Services (UCSS) announced a $10,000 donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank on Tuesday at the charity’s main warehouse on 115 Avenue and 120 Street.

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UCSS had been fairly successful in fundraising efforts thanks to community support and decided to lend to a hand in turn, President John Shalewa said.

“We know that the Ukrainian nationals have been benefiting from Edmonton’s Food Bank, and we’re hoping that this will go a long way to help other individuals in the community,” Shalewa said. “We decided that this would really help the people in need as far as food goes.”

Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine, UCSS has seen about 710 families come through its doors where clients seek settlement support services, Shalewa said, adding that the donation represents about one-tenth of the organization’s $100,000 per year budget.

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Many recent newcomers from Ukraine have been beneficiaries of the food bank’s services, executive director Marjorie Bencz said, adding that the organization is appreciative of the support.

“The number of people that we’re serving through our hamper programs is about double what we were serving two years ago, plus we have more organizations coming forward to get food from us,” she said. “People have been very generous to us, and we understand that money is tight, but we rely on the community to do this service.”

More than just hampers, the organization also supports clients with Beyond Food, a job readiness program that aids clients with resume writing, interview coaching, job searches and more.

“In the spring, we started seeing more Ukrainians coming to that program, looking for opportunities to be employed or improve their quality of life while they’re here in Edmonton,” Bencz said.

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Engagement specialist Yagut Albers said the Beyond Food program sees up to 18 new clients a day from African countries as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but two to five of those seeking employment support are newcomers from Ukraine.

The program also works with several partners, including the Learning Center Literacy Association, which helps people improve English language skills, she said.

Speaking to Postmedia at the bustling warehouse, Iuliia Bashtanova and Olena Gorshkova said they arrived in Edmonton from Ukraine earlier this year and took advantage of the program before finding employment at the food bank.

They were joined by Daryna Partynovska, also a recent arrival from Ukraine, who said she has been improving her English through the program, which has helped her become more confident in her new home.

“I am grateful for the help for Ukrainian people,” she said. “It’s helped me and my family in this country.”

Edmonton’s Food Bank is still working to raise 300,000 kilograms of food and $3.5 million in cash donation as part of its 2022 festive campaign, Bencz said, and has raised about half of what they need on both counts thus far.

“Candy Cane Lane has just started collecting as well, and people can visit us online and make monetary donations by just visiting our website,” she said.

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