Seva Dhaliwal spends her Saturdays thinking about others.
In the morning, she goes on her usual errands: picking up baked goods and donated food at Save-On Foods, Fairway Market, Quality Foods, Tyler’s No Frills (which also provides cases of drinking water) and Buy-Low Foods.
Afternoons are spent putting together food hampers at the Kuu-us Crisis Line Society’s building on Adelaide Street.
Just before 5 p.m. she and at least one more volunteer head out in the Kuu-us mobile outreach van to hand out food hampers.
The mobile outreach program helps those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, said Elia Nicholson-Nave, executive director at Kuu-us Crisis Line Society. “It’s a way of reducing financial barriers.”
The program has been filling gaps in service for weekend food distribution for the past nine years. Dhaliwal started out using her own vehicle but the Alberni Valley Community Foundation provided Kuu-us with a van a couple of years ago.
The weekend service sees anywhere from 20 to 55 clients, many people who come with their children, Nicholson-Nave said. “We get a wide range of individuals.”
They cover the entire Alberni Valley, with stops in Cherry Creek and Beaver Creek as well as throughout the city.
Donations for food come by way of the grocery stores as well as citizens putting food in the donation boxes at places like Quality Foods. The more food that is donated, the better the food that Dhaliwal and other volunteers are able to give clients, she says.
Hampers are supplemented with fresh produce contributed by people who have extra from their fruit trees or from various groups around town.
During the winter, the mobile outreach team goes indoors at the Echo Field House and Echo Centre, offering hot food and a place to socialize—something Dhaliwal feels is important. Dhaliwal started the process when she used to set up outside the former video store across from what is now the Coulson’s building on Third Avenue.
Dhaliwal wishes she could offer hot food year-round, as there has been a demand for it, but for now the program is given two or three months’ allowance inside city buildings during the coldest part of winter.
Dhaliwal is proud of how far the program has come, and what it offers to its clients. It started as an hour-long program at the video store, and has doubled to two hours’ distribution in parking lots around the city, on a two-week rotation (half the parking lots are served one week, the other half the next week).
People who use the service “are greeted like guests, not street people. They’re just people; we don’t want to give them labels,” she says. “We want to encourage people to stand on their own feet and socialize with them to encourage them.
“Now they behave like family members,” she says.
“Seva is a passionate and caring person, and her dedication to help us help others is proven in her years working with this project,” Nicholson-Nave said.