A day in the life of a food bank volunteer

The traffic running through the Abbotsford Community Services Food Bank is at its peak this time of year.

  • Dec. 11, 2011 12:00 p.m.
Gina Williams is an avid volunteer with the Abbotsford Food Bank

Gina Williams is an avid volunteer with the Abbotsford Food Bank

by Tyler ORTON

The traffic running through the Abbotsford Community Services Food Bank is at its peak this time of year.

The bottom floor is packed with volunteers handing out food hampers, while the Christmas Bureau upstairs is lined with shelves full of gifts for children and teens. Seniors, single parents and workers trying to get by on minimum wage are leaving the centre with food and presents for the holidays.

“I lived in Vancouver as a single mom on welfare and there wasn’t, in those days, anything,” says Gina Williams, a volunteer at the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau.

Holding a roll of wrapping paper in her hands, her eyes swell as she talks about the food bank clients she’s come to consider kin.

“They’re just a great bunch of people,” Williams says. “You treat them like family; you get emotional when you see them struggling.”

Williams has been at the food bank for over five years. She comes in four days a week during the holiday season, while her Friday nights are spent volunteering for Operation Red Nose, ensuring that drivers who imbibe in a little holiday cheer get home safely.

After retiring as an administrator at the Royal Bank of Canada, Williams says she felt compelled to help out the community she’s lived in for nearly 25 years.

“I like to give back, but I don’t have the money. So this is my way,” Williams says.

Her typical day is spent organizing groceries, placing them into food hampers and handing out donations to the people who come by. Williams says she loves interacting with the same children who’ve been visiting the food bank for years. One young girl always makes a beeline for the bread shelf, Williams says.

There, she will grab a bag of buns and spend her time sitting on the stairs munching on a dinner roll.

“She’s just a little cutie. She doesn’t bother anybody,” Williams says. “So they know, when she comes in, to get the buns ready because that’s exactly what she’s going to do.”

With the holiday season in full swing, the Christmas Bureau’s doors are now open and its shelves are re-stocked each night with everything from doll houses to action figures. After choosing new gifts for their children, parents can head downstairs and pick up a food hamper that includes festive staples such as turkey and mandarin oranges.

Now a grandmother, Williams says one of her biggest delights while working in the Christmas Bureau is when she finds out a child is a bookworm.

“I always slip them extra (books) because I figure if a kid nowadays is reading then, my God, let them read,” she says.

Williams says the only disheartening thing about her experience is that she’s seeing a lot new faces this year. Still, she says it’s the people she sees all the time that keep bringing her back.

“I’ve met some really good friends here. They’re just wonderful people.”

Just Posted

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat greets fans outside of the Abbotsford Centre prior to the Canucks exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators in 2019. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
More jobs posted for Abbotsford AHL team

Five new opportunities accepting applicants, Comets forward Lukas Jasek signs in Finland

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ plan going forward

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read