Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. (BGM) and Evolution Camp Services have come together to bring emergency food bank services to the Wells, Barkerville and Bowron communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea to create and offer the service for the community was spearheaded by Tamara and Bob Bedard, who own Evolution Camp Services, along with the Pooley Street Café, and it was made possible with the help of BGM.
The Bedards realized members of their community may need some help during this difficult time, so they contacted Chris Pharness, vice-president of sustainability and community relations at BGM, and the idea quickly became a reality.
“We were just talking about a way we could help the community and assist some of our more vulnerable members, the elderly and immune-compromised members of our community,” said Tamara Bedard. “Being in a remote community, we felt like a lot of residents in town would have a more difficult time obtaining groceries and cleaning supplies.”
The Bedards’ company provides the catering and camp services for BGM, and the two companies have a history of community involvement together, so when the idea for a food bank was pitched to Pharness, he wanted to see it come to fruition quickly, and BGM financially backed to initiative without hesitation.
“At BGM, we consider ourselves to be part of the community,” said Pharness. “We understand that there are people there who were suffering even before COVID, so we knew there were people at risk and there are a lot of seniors up there. So we are always trying to think of initiatives we can do to help folks in the community, and really, it’s about being a good neighbour — it’s our way of saying that we appreciate the town and community.”
The Bedards put the word out to the community to see who might be in need during this time and asked not only if residents needed help themselves, but also if they knew of anyone in the area who might be in need of groceries and cleaning supplies or even just to be checked in on.
“We put it out there into the community and said that if anybody is aware of somebody that may be in need, to get ahold of us,” said Bedard. “There were people on our radar to begin with, but people could be elected by other people who felt like they could use a hand in getting groceries or being checked on — the response has been incredible; everybody has been so happy and grateful for the assistance and just to know that the community cares.”
One of the reasons Bedard believes the response from the community has been so positive is that they are not only delivering the food boxes to people’s doors, but they are also spending some time to talk with members of the community as well.
“We have had people in tears, just extremely grateful for the relief of not having to navigate how to get supplies, and so many thanks — people are really grateful,” said Bedard. “When we do the deliveries, we spend a little time to talk to them and we wear gloves and masks and we will put the groceries down on their door step and then knock and step away at least two metres and just check on them when they come to the door to make sure they are doing OK, because we find that people’s mental state under the current conditions plays a large part into whether people are staying at home. It’s not just groceries — we just wanted to show our community that we care and come together and help out.”
The Bedards and BGM wanted their food bank services to not only be available to their immediate community but the surrounding communities as well, so they reached out to three First Nations communities in the area to find out what they could do to help.
“We have actually been in touch with three local First Nations bands, and we offered them a relief package between BGM and Evolution to provide relief to their communities as well,” said Bedard. “We spoke with either the chiefs or head of administration of the bands to try to figure out what their needs were and what they were having difficulty sourcing and will be delivering to them this week.”
Now going into its third week running, the food bank service from BGM and Evolution plans on continuing the service for as long as it is needed during the pandemic.
“At this point, we are going to try to ride this out and I would say that residents here are very honest about their circumstances,” said Bedard. “I grew up here, my parents owned the photo studio in Barkerville, so I know a lot of the residents and they are quite honest about their circumstances. They will tell you if they are OK for a week. For example, the first week was the biggest one, and then last week, we found that people were saying, ‘please share it around; we’re OK this week.’ It’s kind of a big group effort — everybody’s making sure that there is enough to go around.”
Bedard says the operation wouldn’t be possible without help from the community, and she lauds the effort made by volunteers working alongside her and her husband to make the food bank happen.
“It hasn’t just been Bob and I,” she said. “We have brought in a couple volunteers from the community, and it’s definitely been a group effort, and we have to thank them for their help because with everything we have going on, we definitely rely on other people, our friends, family and other members of the community, to help us out.”
In addition to their regular food bank deliveries, on April 22, Evolution Camp Services will be offering a free sanitizer refill station to residents of Wells, Barkerville and Bowron in limited amounts with the donation of a non-perishable food item. The refill station will be located on the patio of the Pooley Street Café from noon to 2 p.m., and anyone interested in taking advantage of the service is asked to bring their own four-ounce bottle. Refills will be limited to one bottle per person or two per family.
Bedard says whenever there is a need in the surrounding community, its members step up to find a way to support each other, and that is what makes it so special.
“There is a strong sense of community out here for sure, and we feel that — even during the wildfires, if there is ever a need for people to come together, there is no hesitation out here,” she said. “It’s great — it definitely offsets some of the more challenging parts of living in a remote community.”
Individuals who want to learn more about the food bank services offered by BGM and Evolution can learn more on the Evolution Camp Services Facebook page or by contacting Tamara Bedard at 403-804-1977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.