Change is in the air at Powell River Action Centre Food Bank, where a new team of volunteers has stepped in to continue the work of its longtime manager.
Gina Kendrick recently left the position due to health reasons after leading the food bank for 24 years as an administrator and board member.
Starting in September, while retaining its own separate board and charitable status, the organization will be overseen by Powell River Brain Injury Society (PRBIS). A new executive committee will be elected at that time, according to PRBIS executive director Debbie Dee.
“We don’t want to dissolve the food bank [society] by any means because it works the way it is,” said Debbie. “It’s a federally registered charity and we have to keep it all the same. There are just going to be different faces and eventually maybe some different policies and things like that down the road.”
In spite of her illness, Kendrick was able to assist Debbie and the outgoing board with the transition over the past few months. Kendrick even chose her two successors.
“We have divided [her role] because Gina did everything,” said Debbie. Dewar Boutilier is the new supply manager while Debbie’s sister, Savanna, is being trained to handle the day-to-day operations.
Food bank society president David Garling expressed the current committee’s faith in passing the torch.
“We’ve had several meetings over the last few months with Deb and the folks from the brain injury society and we’re completely confident they have the energy and the vision to take it to the next level,” he said.
Since its inception, Powell River Action Centre Food Bank has operated purely on volunteer efforts, while most other food banks in the province employ at least one paid administrator. For Garling, that is what makes Kendrick’s contributions all the more selfless.
“Gina has done this without a penny of reward, other than some mileage for lugging groceries around in her own vehicle,” he said, “and she has done this indefatigably, not only going in to keep the food bank open during regular hours and setting up procedures, but going in at all hours of the day, night and weekend to receive donations, shop and stock the shelves.”
Savanna said she and Boutilier hope to expand the food bank’s offerings once they settle into their new roles. They have already discussed the idea of a fresh fruit and vegetable program and the ongoing need to better accommodate allergies and strict dietary needs.
“It is amazing what Gina has built this into and the wonderful food people get,” said Savanna.
Under the umbrella of PRBIS, the food bank will also serve as a place in the community where people living with acquired brain injuries can lend their talents and enjoy a sense of belonging.
“We have a good pool of volunteers who can go down there and make up the bags of rice and flour and the boxes of groceries for the families, so they’re contributing and that makes them feel good,” said Debbie. “It’s a win-win.”
Garling is excited at the prospect of this larger volunteer pool as well, crediting the community’s support as the biggest factor in the food bank’s three-decade history of uninterrupted service.
But none of it, he said, could have been possible without Kendrick’s selfless stint at the helm.
“This town has been very good to the food bank and if Gina hadn’t maintained our credibility it would have been so much harder of a job to meet our goals,” said Garling. “I just can’t say enough about how that sacrifice of hers has enriched the lives of so many people in the community.”
Publisher/editor’s note: We have been informed that Gina Kendrick passed away on Sunday, August 14. Our condolences to her family.