To Ian Baikie, helping solve Campbell River’s food insecurity problem is about filling a void.
Baikie is one of the coordinators for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen, where he helps out with the daily suppers put on by the Grassroots Kind Hearts Society. However, he is much more than just a coordinator for the program. Baikie was instrumental in helping the society and other food security programs find a home in Campbell River.
Baikie is the former Campbell River fire chief and in that job he saw the volunteers serving meals to people in need in the space behind the downtown fire hall, often in some very difficult conditions.
“Grassroots did a good job for six years or more providing a dinner in often very undesirable conditions. They’ve done amazing work,” he says.
However, last spring the rumour started going around that Grassroots’ home in the Radiant Life Church would be changing.
“When it came to getting themselves into a new building, they seemed to be struggling. It just seemed to be somewhere I could help,” he says. “We asked people about what was going on and people were trying to figure out what to do, but nothing was jelling. Towards the first of September I started to become really involved in finding a new location… I worked with city staff, regional district staff and Campbell River Homelessness Coalition members. We happened upon the location where we are now in the Harbourside Inn.
“We have the building open now and, for me, it’s a matter of empowering people to take it away from me. I was just dealing with the need. I will support the kitchen as much as I can and as long as there’s a need for me to do so, but it’s about fixing a problem that was pretty apparent.”
Baikie’s drive to help people in the community is long-standing. He has been a member of the Campbell River Rotary for over 15 years, making a difference both locally and internationally. It was through Rotary that his latest involvement with the kitchen came about. Baikie was put in charge of an initiative at the start of the pandemic to provide PPE and food dollars to different not-for-profits in the community. As the pandemic wore on, the PPE side of things was passed on to another Rotarian, and Baikie became involved in food security.
Though Rotary has played a big part in his work with the kitchen, Baikie also put a lot of his own personal time into the project. He and a few others did all the construction, including redoing the floors, reconfiguring the booths and making sure everything was brought up to safety regulations.
The results could not be better, he says.
“When it was at the firehall, either inside or outside the Radiant Life Church, we had people who were disgruntled and barely getting by, not feeling very much love… When we came to the kitchen, that all changed,” he says. “I haven’t had a raised voice or any kind of altercation whatsoever in the four months that we’ve been open. It’s a very happy group who seem very appreciative and happy to socialize with one another in a dry, warm, appropriate location. Their behaviour is so much more respectful of each other and of the service than they were in other locations and other times.”