Community Pantry Project fills a gap by supporting Rockwood residents in need

ROCKWOOD – Every Wednesday, people in need can visit the new Community Pantry Project here to pick up groceries, clothing and small kitchen items, and stay to enjoy a bowl of hot soup. 

The pantry is organized by the Rockwood Lions Club at St. John’s Anglican Church, 112 Guelph St., from 3 to 5pm weekly.

The project is also supported with volunteers and donations from the South Wellington Community Lions Club.

Rockwood Lions Club volunteer Dawn Raynard said when the pantry launched in July, it had just a few recipients and took place at Waterside Park. 

Now it’s grown to serve around 35 people weekly, and moved to the church before the cold weather made meeting at the park impractical.

“I knocked on the church door here – they were the first ones we asked and they were happy to help,” welcoming the pantry to use their fellowship hall every week, free of charge, Raynard said.

“We have a magnitude of volunteers and supporters,” she noted, including a couple Lions and a group of community members who come out every week. 

‘Rescued’ food

“We get a lot of our food from The Seed in Guelph,” Raynard said, as well as Rockwood Foodland.

Much of the fresh produce from The Seed is donated by local farmers, she noted. 

And “random community members have just shown up and given gift cards” for the pantry to use to purchase food.   

The Community Pantry Project also “networks and shares” with similar organizations such as the Food For Life programs in Acton and Ospringe, she said. 

Raynard delivers anything left over after the Wednesday afternoon pantry in Rockwood to Ospringe, “so nothing gets wasted.” 

Much of the food distributed by the community pantry is “rescued,” Raynard said, meaning food that grocery stores can’t sell anymore “but is still in great condition.”

Christmas dinner

On Dec. 22 the group served a community Christmas dinner, serving turkeys, hams and all the fixings. 

Raynard said the dinner was “for people who attend the panty as well as anyone in the community who may not have anyone to share a meal with over the holidays.” 

The dinner was free to attend, though donations are always welcomed. 

Raynard said about 25 people came out for the Christmas dinner, with volunteers from Saint Johns, Lions clubs, and the community working from 8am to 7pm. 

Though most people opted to stay to eat dinner at the church, the dinner was also available for takeout. 

After dinner all leftovers were packed up brought to  downtown Guelph families by Anita from South Wellington Community Lions Club. 

St. John’s parishioners raised over $500 in gift cards to give to people to purchase ingredients for their own Christmas dinners as well. 

‘Community hub’

Raynard said she has lived in Rockwood for about eight years and working with a local community organization sparked her love for the community. 

Earlier this year she noticed a need in the community, and a gap in supports, so she decided to launch the pantry to fill that gap. 

And since the project launched “every week is busier than the last,” Raynard said. 

“So I think it’s needed, that’s for sure.”

She brought the idea to other Rockwood Lions, who were “very excited” about the opportunity “to give back to the community.” 

Raynard said many of the same people keep returning to the pantry, and when they stay for a bowl of soup it gives volunteers a chance to “get to know their stories  – it’s really nice in that sense.”  

For Raynard, the best thing about the project “is how much community members – people who were complete strangers – have now formed relationships.” 

The environment is more like a community hub than a food pantry, she said, recalling how one Lion said, “‘I can’t tell who’s here for help and who’s helping.’”

To receive support from the Community Pantry Project “just show up,” Raynard said. 

They have a “no questions asked policy,” with no paperwork or applications.  

To make a donation to the Community Pantry Project or for more information email 

The pantry is most in need of milk, eggs, cheese, bread and monetary donations.  

Marya Morrison is a volunteer with the Community Pantry Project in Rockwood, where free groceries, clothing, kitchen items and hot soup are offered to people in need.