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This article was published 22/1/2020 (443 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Lara Rae spent 18 years making Winnipeggers laugh as one of the organizers for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
But while she was cracking jokes on stage, she was being pulled in a different direction. She wanted to do something to help low-income and homeless residents in West Broadway. Rae decided to use her passion for cooking to help feed the hungry, and give them warm meals to look forward to.
Rae formed Pantry, a community organization that provides food, winter clothing and other supplies to struggling residents, in August 2019. With the help of volunteers and private donations, Rae has been cooking and handing out warm food through Bear Clan, Crossways in Common, and just to people on the street.
"When the world is on fire, one begins to wonder if they’re doing enough … towards alleviating the suffering. For many people who need help, I empathise with them," Rae said. "I’ve been through rehab, I have my challenges with addictions. I’m lucky enough to have avoided any major housing inconvenience, so I’m able to help out."
Rae helped create the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, which launched in 2002. In May 2019, she stepped down from her position as artistic director. She happened to run into an acquaintance who convinced her to patrol with the West Broadway Bear Clan Patrol. After her first walk in July 2019, Rae decided she would start bringing warm meals to hand out while patrolling. She said Pantry was officially formed in August of that year, as a Facebook page.
Initially, Rae wanted to get food and clothing donations to community organizations in the area, but now the group has grown. The Facebook group has over 1,000 members, she has a host of volunteers to help her, and she’s even started renting a kitchen space to prep the meals. Her small home in West Broadway is packed with bags of clothing donations, and she has a special office space storing non-perishable food items.
Rae said she hopes to make Pantry more of an organized effort in 2020.
"Like most of my projects, a lot of it lives in my head until one day I just do it. It’s quite impulsive, I say ‘you know, I’ve got a couple of hours to spare, I’ve got some broth in the freezer, let’s get a bunch of people together and do this,’" Rae said. "I want to develop a much more formal schedule."
Rae held a fundraiser for Pantry at the end of 2019. Using that money, she’s been able to create an account with a local credit union. The money will be used to buy whatever Pantry needs. Rae hopes to launch a website and create a board of directors for Pantry in 2020.
For more information, or to donate, contact Lara at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find pantry on Facebook as well.
The Metro community journalist
Justin Luschinski is the community journalist for The Metro. Email him at email@example.com