Not-For-Profit Spotlight: More than just a Food Bank – The Family Assistance Program

Lynsey Kitching
The second installation of our not-for-profit spotlight is shining light on the Family Assistance program or more commonly known as the food bank. 
The assistance program in Tumbler Ridge is a very important organization because anyone at anytime could need some help. Matt Westergard has been the coordinator for the program for eight months. He says, “What we’re trying to do is assist families. We do have singles and others. The bottom line is we want to assist people and ensure they have something to eat. We’re trying to help them get on their feet, but we’re not the final answer. We’re trying to help them out.”
Westergard is also the contact person for the program. If someone needs to get assistance, they contact him. He says, “I do most of the talking and visiting and seeing where they are at. There are other people involved so I coordinate them as well.”
No community is without need, and things here in Tumbler Ridge are looking good, at the moment. In Tumbler Ridge the assistance program makes sure people are eating. The main method of getting food to people who need assistance, is by giving them hampers full of mostly, canned goods. Westergard says, “From what I understand through talking with Shirley, who is our assistant, the number of hampers has gone down. We are probably assisting somewhere around 25 families and individuals right now.”
The assistance program relies on donations from local businesses and the donation box at the grocery store. A few weeks ago there was one huge donation. Westergard says, “The wind project food drive raised a lot of canned goods,” he says with a laugh. “We also have the Mayor’s Food drive, which this year is going by the name District of Tumbler Ridge’s food drive. It’s an opportunity for the whole town to help out the food bank. 
Last year we had the firefighters, other community members and council, going house to house looking for donations.”
The food is then brought to the church at 275 Murray Drive, where volunteers organize the food. This helps the town get through the year and a lot of the food also goes into the Christmas hampers. The drive will be in December this year, though no firm date is available yet.
On top of food donations, the Family Assistance program also received monetary donations from companies and local businesses. Westergard says, “Companies financially give to the food bank, so some of the food we give is purchased. We have to buy something as well. We send out letters to the businesses asking if they want to support us. We get a substantial amount of money from the businesses and for that we thank them.”
Westergard says the best was to donate is to head to the Shop Easy and drop of non-perishables in the box provided. Another option is to call Westergard himself, for not only donations but also if you need assistance. He says, “Everything is confidential. I don’t discuss cases with other people, and we do everything to ensure confidentiality. It is really important to us. If someone finds themselves in need for whatever reason, they can contact the food bank. We may be able to help, we may not be, but we do our best to assist people. We recognize even the most well meaning of people can have tough times.” 
Westergard can be reached at 250-242-7404.