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A pantry stocked with dignity and compassion

Poverty, homelessness and mental illness are challenges faced by many communities today and the Queenston Street area of St. Catharines is no different. Happily, for the women who live there, there is the Westview Centre4Women (WC4W), a resource centre located in the Westview Christian Fellowship church.

The WC4W provides group-based services that work to alleviate the effects of poverty, increase resilience and well-being, and build a healthier community. Programs include daycare for preschool children, hot meals, an accessible pantry, laundry services, gardening projects, haircuts, employment and housing services, and classes that help break down barriers and improve quality of life.

In January, the Gay Lea Foundation announced a grant of $6,000 to support the centre’s purchase of milk and eggs for its Plentiful Pantry, which offers low-income women access to food and household items at marginal cost.

“About 40 to 60 sixty families access the WC4W’s Plentiful Pantry every week,” says Jane LaVacca, WC4W’s Executive Director. “The women who use the service are low-income women struggling financially and are often on assistance; some of the women are homeless or don’t have permanent housing,” she adds.

“We have a local food bank in St. Catharines, which is very good, however, it does not always have items that women need,” says LaVacca. “With the Gay Lea Foundation, the WC4W purchased 941 bags of milk and 1,000 dozen eggs in 2019.”

“We ask for a suggested donation for the milk and eggs,” says LaVacca. “The small amount of funds raised are used to purchase more milk and eggs, creating a self-supporting way to stock the pantry with these healthy essentials. We also feel the donation is important to create dignity among the women who use the Plentiful Pantry, but we never turn anyone away,” she adds.

“I feel attending Westview has made me more confident and improved my mental health,” says Megan, a client of WC4W. “The services I like the best are the pantry, which helps me feed my family with healthy food, such as fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Otherwise, it would be pasta and beans, which is how my family survived before learning about this place.”

“The Plentiful Pantry has been open since 2009 and is always running in a deficit,” says LaVacca. “The grant has helped us provide fresh dairy to the women and with the small donation they give, we can keep this service going. This grant was the solution to our problem. Our women are so grateful for the milk and eggs; many were going without. Thank you to the Gay Lea Foundation for your amazing support!”

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