Cowichan Lake community steps up to support food bank

Forest Cooperative pledges $4,000 a month, Virtual Bottle Drive launched

Lake Cowichan Food Bank president Betty Sanddar and treasurer Katherine Worsley receive the first of three $4,000 donations from the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Cooperative. They are joined by Country Grocer employee Janice, Forest Cooperative chair Lorne Scheffer, and Country Grocer owner Pete Pimlott. (Submitted)

The Lake Cowichan Food Bank is doing its best to operate as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several local organizations and individuals have stepped up to help out.

According to treasurer Katherine Worsley, the food bank has switched largely to cards from Country Grocer to provide assistance to families and individuals in need, and the community is backing their efforts.

The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Cooperative is among the biggest supporters, committing $4,000 for each of the next three months, and pledging for a fourth month if necessary.

Also donating to the cause are the Cowichan Lake District Skating Club, Mid-Island Co-op, Su-Casa Rescue, Cowichan Green Community, and Mosaic Forest Management, who are also looking into providing wood to those who need it.

Funds are also coming in through the donation website at, and community members have been dropping off cards or sending cash.

“The support has been amazing,” Worsley said. “And we want to send a huge thank you out to all.”

For food bank clients who are unable to get to Country Grocer, volunteers are able to help with shopping.

Worsley wants to help people stay as safe as possible during the pandemic.

“The more we can help people stay closer to home, the better,” she said. “And if they are able to shop for what they need, the better.”

The food bank is not accepting donations of food until the crisis is over.

Nor is it collecting bottles, which are a major source of funding. Instead, a Virtual Bottle Drive has been launched online by Max and Gail Russell of GMR Accounting and Business Services and Tracy Hamilton of Three Point Creative.

“It didn’t take long to get the approval from the powers to be at the food bank to run with the Virtual Bottle Drive Campaign” Russell said. “Talking with Betty [Sanddar] at the food bank, I found out that an average bottle drive bag nets around $25 to the food bank. We’re offering those that can to sponsor one or more bags to support those in the community that need help for their families to purchase food while they are in limbo with government assistance.”

To donate to the Virtual Bottle Drive, supporters can e-transfer the equivalent of one of more bags to Please include a full name and email address in the comment area for your tax-deductible receipt to be sent by return email.

“We are really hoping that those who have can give a little for those that are in need at this time through a novel bottle drive,” Russell said. “It was the least hands-on way for us to reach out and to provide to those in need while people are self-isolating and respecting social distancing. So we ask everyone to check their empties and see if they can’t give to our Virtual Bottle Drive.”

The system for applying for assistance from the Lake Cowichan Food Bank is still the same: contact Cowichan Lake Community Services at 250-749-6822 on Tuesdays or Thursdays, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The food bank’s annual general meeting was scheduled for April 14, and will be held online through the Zoom videoconferencing service. Watch or contact the food bank for details.

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