I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Suzan Krescy, Executive Director of the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village. I have had the privilege of knowing Suzan for several years. Her kindness and passion for her work is evident: anyone who has met Suzan likely knows first-hand her love for the community and the people who walk through the doors of the Food Bank.
Suzan has been in her role since February 2007. In a nutshell, her job is to oversee the many programs of the two groups. Working closely on the front line, something she will never stop doing — Suzan speaks with clients getting ideas of what is needed in the community and finding ways to implement those programs and services. The Food Bank team includes two full-time registered Social Workers, a Volunteer Coordinator and a Perishable and Non-Perishable Coordinator in the warehouse. At the start of COVID-19, they were also blessed with cleaning staff, who Suzan considers a more fitting title to be “Lifesaver!”
COVID-19 proved to be a challenging time for many, including the people of St. Albert. Suzan is in awe of her incredible team, and their amazing volunteers who banded together to provide services to those in need. Recognized as an essential service early in the pandemic, Suzan is beyond proud of the work they continued to provide. “We were able to keep our heads above water,” she says.
During COVID-19, 75-80 volunteers pitched in and 14,000 hours were donated. An astonishing 773, 000 pounds of food was sorted, put away, and tucked into hampers. Over 400 St. Albert families were given hampers in March 2020 alone. In total, almost 4,000 hampers were distributed in 2020, and the number of homeless people has doubled from January to March 2021 as they continue to help those fleeing domestic violence and those seeking a safe and warm place to stay.
I asked Suzan what she has learned over this last year. “Learning that we are essential,” she answered. Food Banks are often pushed to the side, so to be raised up, and recognized as an essential service was amazing. She also acknowledges the resiliency of not only staff and volunteers, but their clients as well. “What they have been through has been incredibly difficult. People who have never had to access us before … it’s been really, really hard for them. My heart goes out to them because they’ve never had to navigate this system before,” she says.
Suzan notes that one of her career highlights is the creation of the Community Village. “This has been the pinnacle for me,” she says. As the first Food Bank in the province to develop this model, she is grateful that she was able to have the fortitude of a board that supported the idea and its development. The Community Village model has since gone national across the country.
While I am certain most are aware that the Food Bank provides food to those in need, they also offer other services: housing support and home share programs (launching soon!), as well as the income tax program. The St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village helps individuals and families facing a variety of circumstances.
Suzan and her team were faced with some incredible challenges, but persevered and navigated uncharted waters with strength and commitment to their families. Suzan salutes the incredible partnerships within the city with community service agencies, noting that “No one agency can do it all,” she says. People that work closely with the Food Bank provide a seamless service to people in need. Here is a list of their partners:
- S.A.I.F. (Stop Abuse in Families)
- Salvation Army
- St. Albert Seniors Association
- Primary Care Network
- St. Albert Victims Services
- St. Albert FCSS (Family Community Support Services)
- City of St. Albert (St. Albert Affordable Housing Liaison)
- St. Albert Housing Society
- St. Albert Housing Coalition
- Family Resource Centre
- Probation, Mental Health and Addictions
- Child and Family Services
- St. Albert Public Library
- Alberta Supports
- Sturgeon County FCSS
- School Boards
Suzan can’t say enough about the kindness and generosity of the community of St. Albert. “The city of St. Albert has always been very, very supportive of the Food Bank and all of our families. But this was to a level I had never seen before. It was absolutely amazing. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that. Ever.” When asked to describe St. Albert in three words, Suzan laughed at me. “Just three?” So, we settled on these: kind, considerate, resilient, strong, and united. The support of the community certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
The work of the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village doesn’t end. The Food Bank is currently going through 60,000-70,000 pounds of food every month!
“We need food!” Suzan says. And you can help! The Food Bank has partnered with Save on Foods, Independent, Safeway, and Sobeys who will have donation bins for the first annual Spring Food Drive, which is set to take place on Saturday May 1, from 10am-4pm. Suzan and her team are grateful to the Red Willow Church and the St. Albert Lions Club, who will be helping during the Food Drive.
If you are wanting to volunteer for the Food Bank, please contact Crystal, Volunteer Coordinator, at 780-522-1025 ext. 107 or [email protected]. Please note, with restrictions in place, you may be placed on a waiting list, but will be contacted when spots are available.
Thank you to Suzan and her team for the incredible work that they do for the community of St. Albert!