For Trudy Endacott, Loaves and Fishes Outreach has always been an expression of her faith.
She co-founded the organization in 1995 after she and her friend Pat Friesen noticed an increasing number of people in the community who needed food and support. Two years later she and a woman from the Lower Mainland decided to form a society – calling it Loaves and Fishes for the religious connotations – in order to issue tax receipts for donations.
“The Food Bank was doing OK, but there was a lot of people falling through the cracks so we thought, as Christians, we should be doing something about it,” Endacott said. “We went around to the different churches and asked for their support because we didn’t want to get funding through the government. We wanted to give out of compassion and help people.”
Endacott said almost all the churches agreed to help by donating items. Initially, the group had 10 volunteers who worked out of their homes. Quickly, as demand for their services grew, they realized they needed their own centre. They had no money, so they prayed for help.
Five days later,Victor Winiewski, who owned the old Flannery Building, offered them a place to set up shop. They stayed there until 2002 when Hillside Church Pastor Denise Smith offered to build Loaves and Fishes its own place on the church grounds. They are still there today, although the organization has evolved over the years, distributing second-hand clothes, small household items and even cords of firewood in addition to food.
These days, it operates more as a free store than a food bank – and the demand remains huge, Endacott said.
“The people who come are very desperate,” she said. “We wanted to let people know that God cared about them and he wasn’t just absent in their lives. We don’t push religion but we want people to know why we’re doing it and sometimes they’ll ask for prayer.”
Although she finds the work rewarding, Endacott developed serious back problems in 2003 and stepped away for a bit. In 2008 her then-husband Paul Silverwood contracted cancer and later died, prolonging her absence from Loaves and Fishes. She didn’t think she’d ever return to any volunteer work and stayed away until 2012.
“A couple of years later I met NeilEndacott and he’s such a compassionate person. After we got married I went ‘you know, I kind of want to show you where my passion is and maybe we could start volunteering again.’ In no time at all they wanted us to run it again because of the experience we had,” Endacott said. “We like to be useful in the community and have things to do andNeilsaid he’d totally support me, so we’re back in there.”
Today, Endacott helps organize 20 core volunteers and Loaves and Fishes continues to enjoy community support from the churches and businesses. They support roughly 20 families, or about 100 individuals, across the community. She invites any in need this holiday season or throughout the year to come by on Wednesdays between 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or call 250-395-2708.
“It’s been a long journey, this Loaves and Fishes, but I feel it’s needed. People need to know God loves them and they’re not alone.”