Agencies scramble after Pembroke Salvation Army closes after 133 years
Published Thursday, March 28, 2019 3:32PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, March 28, 2019 6:26PM EDT
Agencies that deal with the vulnerable are scrambling in Pembroke after the Salvation Army announced it was closing its doors.
The charity had been there for more than a century operating a food bank and soup kitchen. It came with little warning for the folks in Pembroke. They were told the very day the Salvation Army shut down this Monday.
Now, community residents and local businesses are mobilizing to try to fill the shoes of an organization that had been there since the 1800's.
The sign is already gone from the site at 484 Pembroke Street West; the doors are locked and an institution in the city of Pembroke since 1886 is no more.
“I'm sad that happened,” says Pembroke’s Mayor Michael Lemay, who was notified about the closure Monday morning, “They've been excellent in the community and I'm really disappointed.”
The Salvation Army closed its thrift shop at the same site several years ago. But up until Monday, it operated a Youth Outreach Centre, a Christmas Hamper Program, a soup kitchen and a food bank, one of only two in all of Pembroke.
Now the buildings will be put up for sale as the Salvation Army consolidates its services. In a statement, the Salvation Army said:
"After reviewing services in the community, we see there are other organizations providing similar programs, such as St. Joseph's, which continues to operate both a Food Bank and Soup Kitchen."
The sudden closure on Monday caught many off guard who had come to rely on the Salvation Army to help them get through the month.
Norm MacDonald, who is on disability, both volunteered at the soup kitchen and used its services.
“With a limited income, rising rents and all,” he says, “I pay my rent and utilities and I'm pretty much broke. Same as a lot of people here.”
So the Grind Coffee House a few blocks away from the Salvation Army quickly mobilized. Denise Laroche, who coordinates the meals at The Grind, whipped up food at home and brought it there.
“I called the office and said I’ll bring a pot of soup and a plate of sandwiches and take care of Tuesday’s meal,” she said.
The Grand has fed 35 people every day since, which may not seem like a lot but...
“For our community, 35 people that were relying on a soup kitchen and many more for the food bank, it's a big deal,” says Dave Studham, with The Grind, “so what we're trying to do as a community is mobilize to fill the gap.”
That's where restaurants like Little Things Canning Company one come in. Owner Stacy Taylor has stepped up to say she can help with a few meals, all part of giving back to a system that helped her when she needed it most.
‘‘I felt like now that I’m in a position where I can pay it forward and help others,” she says, “I feel like I should do that, because I’ve been there.”
Denise Laroche says that is what it's all about.
‘‘We're a community,” she says, “and a community can't go without holding together so we need to sit down and talk and see what can be done.”
So various groups dealing with the vulnerable plan to meet next week to see what they can do in the short term then figure out how to bridge the gap over the long term.