Just days before she was going to be presented with the new Lake Country Food Bank building as a surprise Christmas gift, food bank manager and co-founder Phyllis MacPherson passed away peacefully at Kelowna General Hospital on Saturday night.
MacPherson, 78, was with family when she passed away after a lifetime of service to the community of Lake Country as its long-time food bank manager and the driving spirit behind the food bank’s operations.
“She never called it the food bank, she called it her home,” recalled Joy Haxton, the vice-president of the Lake Country Food Assistance Society. “When you talked to Phyllis and she said ‘I’ll meet you at the house’ she never meant her residence. You knew exactly where to meet her.”
Home for MacPherson was the Lake Country Food Bank, whether in its original location near Lake Country municipal hall or one of its other postings up to its current location in the old Winfield Elementary School. She started the venture with a handful of others and for more than 30 years dedicated herself to helping those that needed food, helping up to 600 families in a month.
She was honoured many times over, from high level national awards to local recognition, including the Lake Country Chamber’s community service award, which she won this October.
“She’s probably one of the most decorated women in Canada,” said Haxton of the many awards and honours bestowed upon MacPherson. “It was a long list but for Phyllis it was about her people, the people she helped. She had incredible faith. She always said it was God’s will for her to feed people. That was her job.”
The news MacPherson’s passing sent a wave of sadness through Lake Country as word spread this week.
As the Rotary Club made plans to present the nearly-completed food bank building to the society on Dec. 23, news of MacPherson’s passing prompted them to delay any presentation until the new year.
“We are all shocked by the loss of Phyllis – it is a huge blow to all of us,” said Bob Rymarchuk of Rotary. “We had been expecting her to wind down her involvement with the food bank day-to-day operations due to her health but her passing comes as a shock to us all.”
At the Lake Country Food Bank on Monday morning volunteers went about their business with a heavy heart.
But the food bank operations were continuing as per normal.
“Everybody is in mourning but everyone is looking at it like this is what Phyllis wanted us to do,” said society board member Jim Haxton. “There is a core group of volunteers and she prepared them all to be able to run it themselves. Everyone is trained to continue the wonderful work Phyllis did. We know what to do and we’re going to continue the work for Phyllis. I think a little bit of her will be with all of us, to carry on the work. Her belief was that no one should go hungry.”