There’s more than just dried soup being cooked up by the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners.
The local non-profit group, boasting 270 volunteers, has been serving up support for seven years.
It’s biggest endeavour is through a massive plant in Lavington, where dried soup packages are processed to be sent to starving individuals overseas. But the Gleaners are also serving up support locally.
In business for six years now, the Gleaners have a store on 29th Street selling used furniture, appliances and other household items.
Along with keeping items out of the landfill, and offering an affordable place for residents to furnish their homes, the store also donates 10 per cent back to the poor – a process known as tithing.
“We’ve partnered with local churches, NeighbourLink, Vernon Women’s Transition House, John Howard Society, CMHA and NOYFSS,” said Brad Egerton, Gleaners board chairperson. “If they have clients in need of furniture they can come utilize us as a resource.”
So between the soup and the store, the Gleaners are looking after the poor both globally and locally.
Which is why the organization applied for a tax exemption at the store from the City of Vernon this year – which was denied.
The rationale behind not granting the tax break was because the charitable benefit the Gleaners provide is outside Vernon’s municipal jurisdiction.
But the city was obviously unaware of the local support being served up by the Gleaners, said Egerton.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the exemption but hopefully we will in the future.”
Meanwhile, the work of the Gleaners continues with the mission: volunteers serving God by serving the poor.
“We recognize the blessings that we have,” said Egerton. “The main focus was feeding the poor globally and making the soup and we’ve expanded that in a few different directions.”
The Gleaners also collect and distribute medical supplies which would otherwise go to the landfill. In fact, the group has salvaged $20 million worth in the last five years, which has gone overseas to support developing countries.
There are also volunteers throughout the Okanagan who knit blankets, toques and mittens for kids. Last year 14,000 items were shipped to the Ukraine.
“So we’re not just soup,” said Egerton.
And their efforts are growing.
Renovations recently took place to expand the furniture store.
“We started in half the space,” said Egerton. “So we doubled in size about a year and a half ago and we’re going to increase our space another 25 per cent.”
The former Home for Dinner space, was purchased a couple years ago by the Gleaners, who have continued to grow, including hiring a full-time manager.
The expansion will allow the manager, David MacBain, to move his office (which the staff also calls a “broom closet”) into a proper space.
The growth will continue to drive additional sales, which fund the Lavington processing plant.
“Every $100 we have it supplies 5,000 meals,” said Egerton.
And thanks to the farmers and producers who help provide the 1.2 million lbs of vegetables, 7.5 million people are fed.
The Okanagan Gleaners are one of only three in B.C. (Oliver and Abbotsford). There is another group in Alberta and three in Ontario.
“This is the only one that has a store and does medical supplies,” said Egerton.
The Okanagan chapter is also looking at hosting the other groups at a symposium in Vernon in May.
For more information check out the Gleaners online at firstname.lastname@example.org and on the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Facebook page.