Mike Surrell of Lady Rose Marine Services is challenging other businesses in the Alberni Valley to fill the shelves of the Salvation Army’s food bank this Christmas by launching a food drive.
In order to collect food, Surrell is offering a cut rate on day trip tickets to ride the MV Frances Barkley: $25 per adult ticket plus three non-perishable food items.
“We’ve been getting lots of calls already said Surrell, whose business is located at Harbour Quay.
“I’ve done it so people will be motivated to bring us some food and take a ride on the Frances Barkley. I was talking to a young lady that relies on the food bank and she was saying it’s been sparse.”
Surrell approached the Salvation Army, which runs the Alberni Valley’s food bank, and has made arrangements to drop off food donations around Christmastime. His challenge runs until the end of December.
“I thought it would be a good challenge. There are lots of good people working in businesses here and I thought it would be fun to see what we could do and help the food bank.”
Surrell launched a similar project when he owned a KOA campground in Louisiana, before he moved to the Alberni Valley. At that time, they would hold an official weigh-in for food donations, and the returns were phenomenal, he said.
“By the time we were done, after doing it for years, we had so many big businesses, little businesses taking part.
“It’s a fun, friendly way for other businesses to say something like ‘buy a cup of coffee and donate a can of food or some other kind of special.”
The Frances Barkley makes regular runs to Bamfield in the winter months. Right now every trip has been like a whale-watching trip, with orcas and humpbacks spotted nearly every day in Alberni Inlet on the way to Bamfield.
“This month has been phenomenal for whale-watching. Every sailing we’ve seen whales: orcas with calves.”
Surrell is not above talking a little smack when it comes to his food challenge, and he’s willing to take as well as he gets. When he initiated a similar challenge in Louisiana, he wasn’t averse to pulling some pranks on fellow business owners to get them to collect more food.
“We know it’s a positive, good thing for the community. We want to give back to the community wherever we can.”
Lady Rose Marine Services has a large box in their lobby and will accept any food donations, whether someone is buying a ticket on the Frances Barkley or not.
The food bank is grateful for Surrell’s initiative, says Salvation Army family services coordinator, Marilyn Burrows.
“We’re struggling to keep up with the need,” she said. “We have a lot of people coming back from the oilfields and there’s no work there and no work here. We are having new people coming here every week,” she said.
The food bank deals with about 100 families a week. The shelves are typically more bare right after Christmas and in the summertime, Burrows said.
“What Mike is doing is a great thing. Christmas will be a strain but we’ll make it through. Then there’s a food bank right after Christmas, around Dec. 31, so we will need food then.”
The food bank accepts both food and cash donations, and they are always talking to businesses and other organizations that want to help out.
“We’re grateful to be in the community that understands there’s a need out there, and are willing to step up,” Burrows said.