There was a lot of tears and choking back feelings Wednesday morning as all the belongings collected so carefully for the Community Cupboard were spread on tables and across the lawn outside the former church for patrons to take one last look through.
“It’s irreplaceable… in the run of a month we have so little money for things,” said one patron of the free service who wished to remain anonymous. She emphasized the impact that not having to worry about buying clothes or needed household items versus food and other necessities has on someone when they have an extremely limited budget.
But it’s not just the free things that kept the customers coming back to the Community Cupboard, it was the people.
“Not even just for things, but for support,” she said. “They’re the most amazing people and they actually care about you.”
For eight and a half years the service has provided free clothes, household items and even food for those who cannot afford it. The Munroe Avenue facility served many people such as single mothers and others who found themselves on assistance.
“This was my special thing… to come here every Wednesday. I would come here and I was someone special… I was someone here,” she tearfully recalled.
For many, the impact the Cupboard had on their lives is one they cannot forget, as it helped them through some of the hardest times of their lives with companionship and the things that they needed to carry on.
“It’s going to have a huge impact on the community,” the woman said about the closing of the service.
Recently, the trustees of the church that houses the facility decided the building was not structurally sound enough to have the public in it. The Community Cupboard had to vacate the building.
Harriet and Keith Jenereaux began the Community Cupboard eight and a half years ago when Harriet decided that although other places do great work, some still choose to charge money for items and there are some in the community who cannot afford even this amount.
It was at this time that she said to the pastor of the church, “February is the month of love, why don’t we open our doors and give stuff away for free for the month.” Jenereaux said, “That month turned into eight and a half years,” she smiled.
With more than 100 people using the service each week, Jenereaux knows some will now have to go without. She was in shock and filled with sadness when she realized the service she had lovingly created would have to be shut down.
Not only the patrons and Jenereaux were heartbroken but the volunteers were as well. For seven years, Irene Landry has been helping out at the Community Cupboard.
“I kind of hit rock bottom and I turned to the pastor and (his wife),” she said. After having used the service when she needed help, Landry returned faithfully to help others.
“Just to be able to help people and see them smile,” she said is one of her favourite things about the service. That and the fact that it was also a place to meet people and talk and enjoy the company.
“This was a big part of my life,” Landry said holding back tears. Heartbroken, Landry added that there will be a big gap in the community with the Community Cupboard gone and a lot of people still in need of its service.
“Irene and I were here and we looked at each other and my eyes filled with tears and hers were running down her face,” Jenereaux recalled.
Irene Landry, a volunteer, left, and Harriet Jenereaux, founder of the Community Cupboard, right, hug as they lament the closing of the Community Cupboard service in New Glasgow. (Brimicombe photo)