A small town with a big heart could be Lumby’s motto.
When it comes to sharing with those less-fortunate, the residents of the small town on Highway 6 don’t hesitate.
The latest program embraced by residents is Suspended Coffee. A suspended coffee is a pre-paid coffee or other menu item in a restaurant or coffee shop that you purchase and is then held for someone in need.
“It goes back awhile ago when Katie Salter asked if we had the program here, which we didn’t, but I thought it was a fantastic idea,” said Debra Drewry, administrator for Lumby’s Around the Block Facebook page. “Through the page, others started responding, including Audrey Harron with Millie’s Kitchen, who said they’d love to support the idea. Audrey and I worked on a flyer to get it up and running, and then other businesses started to get involved.”
Drewry, who moved to Lumby about a year and a half ago, said everyone she contacted was enthusiastic about participating. She said Lumby typically doesn’t have many people who are homeless, but there are many living on low incomes, and those making use of the program could be a student who forgot their lunch or someone who just wants to enjoy a cup of coffee but can’t afford it.
“This is an unbelievable community, and this has become such a huge part of the community,” she said.
Millie’s Kitchen owner Euan Harron said when the idea was put forward by Salter, he and his staff were happy to support it.
“It sounded like a nice program designed for local people that were in need of a little help to deal with a bad day or get over some challenges that they may be facing, an extension of other ‘pay it forward’ initiatives that we hear of,” said Harron. “I suppose the main reasons for us were that it was a local program, and that did not demand significant resources to be able to support it.”
Harron said like all good things, it is a simple program, and anyone can leave anything they like for a customer in need, from soup and a bun to a full dinner, or more if they wish.
In addition, Millie’s Kitchen adds an additional item for every three of something left, so if you paid for three coffees, or three soups, the restaurant would add a fourth to the list.
“Managing the program is also simple — we keep a sheet of paper with what is contributed and therefore available, and then the date it was taken when it is used by someone,” said Harron. “One nice thing that we have seen is that both locals and visitors have donated. People have said they like the idea — sometimes they have a coffee added to their bill, sometimes they leave $5 or $10, which we then turn into something on the list.”
Harron said the program can be used by anyone, without fear of being questioned or judged
“We have no idea what they may be facing,” he said. “If someone asks if there is anything available we will let them know, and they may then ask for one of the items.
“We have also given an item if someone is simply struggling with the day for whatever reason, if it helps cheer them up and they leave feeling better about the world, we think it’s a worthwhile use. Some are struggling with a current issue, some are struggling with their longer-term situation.”
Harron said Lumby is a giving community, with people regularly volunteering to help in any number of programs, covering costs or donating items to help out here and there.
“I think the community is essentially long-standing and naturally sees and takes on the need to help and support those within itself in times of difficulty,” he said. “This is even true of new members — in fact the first person to pay into the program had recently moved from Alberta.”
In addition to Millie’s Kitchen, there are a number of Lumby businesses participating in the Suspended Coffee program, including Take Two Dinner and a Movie, Sisters Restaurant, Jitter Beans Coffee House and Lumby Health Foods.