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Barristers Sponsor Food Bank Renovation

Barristers sponsor food bank renovation in honor of Joe Burke at Debra Dynes Family House.

An Ottawa-based food bank was in desperate need of some much-needed renovations. Barristers for a Better Bytown, a charity that operates by raising funds to help support other charitable organizations, took on the $17,000 project for the food bank at Debra Dynes Family House. They decided to dedicate this particular project to Joe Burke, an Ottawa criminal defense lawyer.

In Joe’s time as a lawyer he often took on cases with little to no pay and dedicated his time and craft defending marginalized groups who ended up in the criminal justice system. He was particularly known for defending the rights of Indigenous people. He became interested in spending his time helping those who were caught up in the criminal justice system when he went to Queen’s University and became a member of the Correctional Law Project. This project focused on working with inmates, where his interest in assisting Indigenous people began. He would often meet with elders in prison sweat lodges.

barristers sponsor food bank renovation
Joe Burke. PHOTO BY WAYNE HIEBERT /Postmedia files

During his time working with inmates and Indigenous people he became close friends with fellow defense lawyer Mark Ertel. According to the Ottowa Citizen, Ertel says the charity is dedicated to assist the Debra Dynes Family House whenever possible. Burke passed away nearly 20 years ago but his legacy of helping others still lives on. Barristers for a Better Bytown thought it would be an excellent opportunity to pay their respects to a man who dedicated his life to helping those whose in need. He’s even honored annually at the Joe Burke Wolfe Island Literary Festival, which was started by locally adored musician David Bidini of the Rhestatics. Joe Burke was an excellent example of the kind of impact one man can voluntarily have on so many, by living a life lead by loving and caring for others.

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Volunteer Rescues 100 Pounds of Food

Sometimes, helping people is just a matter of keeping your eyes open. This was the case with one of our volunteers who was on the lookout for opportunities to help at his local hospital. He discovered that the hospital was tossing out almost 100 pounds of a nutritional supplement that was slightly over the best-buy date. He also knew that the local food bank accepts non-perishable items up to a year after their best-buy date. It was a simple matter to politely ask if he could take the supplements to the food bank. The hospital staff cheerfully agreed, and even helped him carry the boxes to his car.

volunteer rescues 100 pounds of food
Our friendly volunteer dropping off the rescued food at the food bank.

Because one person was on the lookout for ways to help, the food bank got 100 pounds of food that otherwise would have been wasted. “I’m just glad I was able to help,” the volunteer said. “It just cost me a quick drive, and this food could really help people.” Voluntary giving doesn’t have to be a matter of money. Sometimes all that’s necessary is keeping a lookout for opportunities and having the will to take advantage of them.

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VIA’s Second Annual Holiday Food Drive–Part 1

One of our favorite holiday traditions here at Voluntaryism in Action—our annual fundraiser for holiday meals—was a huge success this year.  Our donors helped us almost double what we raised last year, and we collected almost $9k. 

Annual Holiday Food Drive
VIA volunteers deliver food to St Jude's in Detroit.

More families need help putting food on their tables than ever right now due to government encroachments on natural liberties, including the right to simply go to work.  Voluntaryists everywhere have proven their principles by stepping up to help while these basic difficulties are so widespread.

annual holiday food drive
Executive Director Logan Davies and a VIA volunteer deliver frozen turkeys to St. Moses in Detroit.

With these funds, the VIA team purchased essential items for food banks across the country, including St Jude Food Pantry and St Moses the Black in Detroit, Michigan and the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano in California (the only food bank operating in the entire Bay Area due to government restrictions).  Our team personally delivered over 1,500lbs of food!  On the individual level, through our website and personal referrals, we assisted 30 families with groceries in time for Thanksgiving.

Annual holiday food drive
An overflowing palletful of food from VIA donations from our holiday drive being taken to Contra Costa food bank in Solano County, CA.

Watch for our holiday meal assistance forms to re-open soon in time to help with meals for Christmas, Chanukah, and other festive December meals!

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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Government Stalls Food Donations to Hungry Families

An act of charity was recently brought to a standstill by the heavy hand of government regulation—this time when the charitable solution would have both helped control deer overpopulation and feed the hungry.

According to an article in the Canadian Press, a recent startup project in Saint Andrews (a town in the New Brunswick province) encouraged local hunters to provide venison donations from their hunt to the local food bank. A similar program exists in Nova Scotia, so the startup appeared to be a good idea that could help people without government interference. The hunters were already storing up donations before the project was stalled by government concerns for “health and safety.” Now the would-be donations sit unused in the hunters’ freezers.

It’s a disappointment to many in the town that the stop was initiated in winter when the donation would have helped a number of low-income families during a rough season. Donna Linton, coordinator of the Volunteer Centre, says that the Centre helps roughly 400 people in a month—many of whom live on broth and dandelions without help from the food bank. It’s no question that the Centre is vital to impoverished and struggling families in Saint Andrews, yet it is only just keeping up with its limited meat supply—consisting mostly of frozen hamburgers and hot dogs.

The current burgeoning deer population in the town (reported at 20 deer per square kilometer) stirs up concerns including collisions with motorcycles, confrontations with pedestrians, increased risk and spread of Lyme disease, and complaints of destroyed gardens. Further, the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Development stated that the province’s deer population has been a concern for 10 years, and a simple web search for Saint Andrews’ deer population brings up various results of news articles addressing the deer overpopulation since circa 2018.

Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS

According to a CBC News report, the community called for action from officials  to handle the issue, running a full page ad in the Telegraph-Journal newspaper in August 2019. A common resolution for this issue would be to relocate the deer—however, according to Saint Andrews Mayor Doug Naish, the government in the past declined a relocation plan under the statement that their research showed that it would only cause the deer to die from stress. Again the Canadian Press reported that the government under Naish’s term actually extended a controlled bow hunt within the province.

In addition to considering relocation and the off-season quota hunt, officials of the province considered birth control for the does, and park rangers have tried scaring the deer away with hazing and loud noise. Unfortunately, the deer have become so accustomed to the town that they appear frequently and do not startle easily.

Despite numerous calls by the community to initiate a solution, the government seems mired in uncertainty. With relocation off the table and the government unwilling to further extend hunting privileges, official channels seem to have failed. The food bank project could have been a final and viable solution if not for the government preventing the community taking matters into their own hands. As of now, the project is not officially rejected as it’s continuation awaits the verdict from health officials, so many remain hopeful.