The Campbell River Food Bank is moving full steam ahead following a tough start to the year.
Over the last month, they’ve faced a number of break-in attempts that have seen their fence damaged. Then, late last week, the refrigerated delivery truck they rely on for pick-ups around the community was damaged beyond repair when a tree fell on the cab during its rounds.
“It’s been a rough week,” said Debbie Willis, Campbell River Food Bank manager.
The recent rough patch started a few days after January’s snow storm. Staff and volunteers arrived early the next week to discover the fence had been cut. They started to repair it. The repairs were damaged.
“Stuff happens. Accidents happen. It’s just the cost of doing business,” said Willis. “But the work that we’ve done on the fence, you know every time they come over, it could be a $500 bill.”
Then on Sunday, Jan. 26, the food bank’s refrigerated truck, which was purchased in 2015 thanks to grants and local support, was hit by a falling tree on its way to pick up a load in Courtenay early Sunday morning.
Driver Jason Joyal took his usual route along the Island Highway before cutting across at Piercy Road to get to Costco in Courtenay. It was “inky black” and the wind was shrieking.
Minutes after 6:30, Joyal felt the impact. He was OK. He had two thoughts: one, if there’s a tree on the road, what’s going to happen to the next person who drives up to it. But his next thought took over. The wind was still shrieking and he could feel the box of the truck swaying.
“So I’m thinking, ‘I can’t stop here,’ because I’m not going to see a tree coming at me. I’m going to hear it, but then I’m just going to be smucked by it,” he said. “So out of fear and better judgement, I just kept going.”
He picked up the load at Costco and returned to Campbell River the same way he’d come, stopping at the site of the downed tree to check things out.
The tree had been moved off the road and a man came out of a nearby house and told Joyal that when the wind blows in the area, trees come down all the time. Joyal continued back to the food bank.
While the wind had died down, it was still wet outside.
“It was literally a river coming into the cab,” he said. “The good thing is it happened on the passenger side, so the entire window was smashed, but my wiper blade cleared the window on my side. I still was able to see clearly.”
The truck was written off the next day.
But more than half a dozen businesses supply the food bank with goods.
Willis estimates that the food bank receives between 1 and 1.5 tonnes of goods each day. If they miss a pick-up, the business will just keep the load for the next day.
They only missed one day, Monday. A rental – albeit without refrigeration and the food bank’s recognizable logo – was secured and back doing the rounds bright and early Tuesday morning.
“We were very lucky to get the rental,” said Willis. “I don’t know what we would have done without a rental. We would still be not operating.”
The truck is being covered by insurance so they will have a replacement soon. But Willis wants the community to know that even though their logo-wrapped refrigerated truck that people have grown used to seeing isn’t driving around the community, they are still very much in operation.
“The truck is quite recognizable and everybody knows – they see it driving around all over town and they know it – and they understand what we’re doing,” said Willis. “We don’t have that. It’s gone. It’s going to be a while before we get that again. It’s also important for people to understand that we’re still in business.”
The Campbell River Food Bank supports more than 2,000 people each month.