The last time I talked to Feezah Jaffer, I could sense a slight uneasiness in the way she spoke.
It was not surprising. After all, the Surrey Food Bank executive director was facing one of the most challenging times in the organization’s history.
Off-site depots were closed. Volunteers and staff were down to a skeleton crew. Hours were adjusted. Everything needed to be constantly sanitized. Social distancing meant the number of clients in the building had to be limited.
And demand was skyrocketing.
“We’re also getting a lot more calls from clients saying, ‘can we register because we’re getting laid off,’” she told me. “We’re going to see an uptick in numbers in the next couple of weeks for sure.”
At the time, Jaffer said with restaurants either closing down or being ordered to switch to take-out only, donations of fresh produce and dairy were strong, but she expected that to quickly change.
“Next week it’s going to be interesting to see what our donations look like because that will be the true test of what is happening.”
I called Feezah a week later to find out how the “true test” was going. It was immediately clear by the sound of her voice on Monday morning that something good was happening in Whalley.
Despite the fact that the average daily number of new registered clients had almost doubled, Feezah said Surrey had stepped up.
“We are doing amazing, for donations” she said. “I cannot get over the generosity of this community.
“We can’t keep up.”
On Monday, the food bank sent a tweet asking for donations of non-surgical masks for staff and volunteers to wear during food distribution. Feezah said it was only a matter of minutes before three separate people contacted them saying, ‘We’ll give you guys masks.’
“It was really amazing.”
Surrey’s business community, which is facing massive challenges of its own, is also throwing its support to the food bank.
“We’ve had a lot of companies who have called and asked us,
‘How can we help? What do you need? Do you need money? What can we do?”
One company gave the food bank money so it could buy cleaning supplies, and another company dropped off cleaning detergents and sanitizers.
“It’s just been crazy,” Feezah said. “Crazy good.”
And it’s not just the food bank that is seeing crazy good come from these crazy times.
Stories about people helping others have overwhelmed the Now-Leader newsroom since the COVID-19 outbreak hit our community.
And in a drive to help those “in the trenches,” the SurreyCares Community Foundation is already seeing the community’s generosity shine in response to its new special emergency fund to support our city’s social service agencies.
SurreyCares asked me why the Now-Leader partnered with them in this endeavour.
“We have always loved sharing stories about how the community comes together during hard times,” I replied.
“If there’s one thing I learned about our city after living and working here for more than a decade, it’s that Surrey rises to the occasion – always.”
Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org