‘It’s a lifeline’: Port Cares unveils new outdoor space and food bank at Reach Out Center

Amanda Upper is the manager of the Reach Out Center. She led tours to show off the new renovations.

The rain did not spoil the parade.

Despite a brief downpour, Port Cares was still able to celebrate the inauguration of its Reach Out Centre.

The different groups like the EarlyON Team, Literary Team and Housing and Homelessness Services all had different activities available such as a bubble station, activity kits, obstacle course, free books for adults and a lemonade and refreshments stand.

“It’s great to have a traditional in-person event again at our Reach Out Center,” said Christine Clark Lafleur, CEO of Port Cares. “We are so excited for this fun day and can’t wait for you to see our new outdoor space that customers can start using to enjoy their fresh meals each week.”

Clark Lafleur said she was happy to have an “outdoor space so we could have community events, children’s programs. We’ve never had this kind of facility before, and where we stand is where there was a tragic fire in December 2016,” she says.

Clark Lafleur said the project received grants and funding from Jungbunzlauer and the Karl Kanane Foundation, as well as the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Reach Out Center manager Amanda Upper called the center a “lifeline.”

“It’s a place to turn to when you’re struggling to just put food on your table,” she said. Upper explained how the center works as “a gateway to connect people to services that can improve their overall household situation.”

“It starts with food, but there’s usually a lot more to the picture, so we have Port Cares utility support programs and housing assistance,” Upper said.

Upper explained how the original building didn’t perform as well in a COVID-19 environment. “The building was not COVID-friendly in terms of distance and the ability to sanitize and space out from those who may have come to access the food bank.” The new addition has allowed us to reconfigure the way we operate the food bank so that it is safe, she said.

“We need to be able to support and respond to the demands of the public who are in this position of need. We need regular donations, we need community support. It takes a community to take care of a community,” Upper said. “We’re just friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors in need, and anything you can give, whether it’s a perishable or non-perishable food donation, a money or a gift of time.”

“Volunteer opportunities are open and sometimes that gift of time is especially valuable to us,” Upper said.

Thanks to generous donations, a free barbecue was held.

Describing itself as a “comprehensive agency”, Port Cares offers housing, job search, help with employers, job training, food bank, meals for the needy, specialized help for people low-income seniors and families with children, early childhood development and parenting skills through six EarlyON Child and Family Centers located across Niagara as well as virtual service, service assistance public, counseling and crisis intervention services. They also offer seasonal programs like Coats for Kids, Give a Gift and more.

Since the start of the pandemic 26 months ago, the number of people receiving relief services through Port Cares has increased by 35%. To put a number, they serve around 2,300 unique people and around 1,000 per month. This includes the food bank, emergency boxes for seniors and the meal program. The elderly and children make up the largest number of clients served.

To learn more about Port Cares or to donate, visit portcares.ca.