Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Café allows teens to have an impact

Food bank lifts neighbourhood's needy

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After school, Alycia Leafloor forces herself away from physics homework and makes her way down to the Bell Tower Community Café.

Along with 70 other volunteers, the 16-year-old helps set up and organize the food bank.

"You're not just taking from the world, you're giving back to it," said the Grade 11 student.

Since the café's grand opening last fall, Leafloor gets a ride to the local food bank from her mom.

"In the car, I'm always wondering whose life I can help improve just by giving them food for the next night," she said.

The Bell Tower Community Café is a food bank that presents itself as a café.

It runs biweekly every second Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and serves a variety of food, coffee, and live music on the second floor of the concert hall at Westminster United Church.

Leafloor's job is to pack and give away food hampers for the 40 families who attend. She also prepares sandwiches.

As she carries hampers to their cars, Leafloor engages in conversation and asks people how their day is going.

She also delivers a warm smile to each person who picks up a box of food.

The smiles are what Leafloor remembers when she was a little girl.

At seven, Leafloor and her family used the community food bank in the small town in which she grew up.

"The people were always very welcoming," she said. "If it wasn't for the people in our community, we would've had a lot less."

As a kid, Leafloor's mom would pack lunches with food shipped from Winnipeg Harvest.

"We always had something to eat in our lunch," she said. "I never went to bed hungry, but my mom did, a lot of nights."

To remind herself of those nights, Leafloor continues to pack hampers and prepare corned-beef sandwiches for anyone who walks through the doors of the café.

"It means a lot to me to be able to help somebody. I know how hard it can be," she said, rearranging a hamper filled with canned goods. "I know that little bit of hope helped my mom keep going."

In Grade 10, Sam Henrickson spends countless hours writing essays for her teachers. She admits high school is hard, especially geography.

But when the 15-year-old heard about the café through her school, she knew she wanted to help.

"At school, you always hear that you should be doing good things for your community, so now I am," said Henrickson. "It's the coolest thing ever. People come here and feel welcome."

At the café, Henrickson packs hampers with her mom and sister.

"My mom drives me here; it's kind of embarrassing," she said, peering over at her mom conversing with a guest. "But it's nice to see people that are new coming in, especially to this thing."

Henrickson, who has also been volunteering since last fall, enjoys giving away hampers once the guests are finished eating dinner.

"This little old lady comes in and she cries every time we give her a hamper," she said. "There's also this little boy that likes to come and play with bananas."

Although essays are hard, Henrickson has learned living without food would be a lot harder.

"Every week they're just so happy, you can see it when you hand off food to people," she said. "You can see it in their eyes."

Although the two friends have a lot on their plate, the Winnipeg teens say they will always find time to give back.

"We might not be able to prevent it but we can help people in the situations they're in now," said Leafloor. "It gives them that little bit of hope that they can one day get out of it."

 

If you know a special volunteer in Winnipeg, please contact Elizabeth Fraser at fraser.a.liz@gmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2014 B2

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