The Joy of Sharing

susan

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct 2, 2015

AT THE Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a group of volunteers is busy stapling bags for a community food bank drive. There is potluck dinner, hearty laughs and a positive vibe to the gathering. One among those stapling the bags is Susan Magnuson and this could be a scene straight from her childhood.
Magnuson grew up in Britannia Beach, where her father worked as a hoistman at the mine. The highway was just a gravel road and there was little outside entertainment except the one that community gatherings provided.
“There were various clubs, baseball teams, and the ladies would get together to fundraise for community events, and I find that spirit still present here,” Magnuson says, as she looks around the room where volunteers have just wrapped up a session of stapling bags for a community food drive that will help the needy and the vulnerable.
Growing up in Britannia Beach, Magnuson saw how easily noticeable stress was and how people would come together to help one another. It’s part of what drove her to volunteer for the food drive despite health issues that limit her mobility. She has been part of the food drive for the last four years, an annual event that brings together volunteers to deliver and collect food from the community for the food bank. From September 15 to 20, volunteers will leave pick-up bags outside homes and will collect them on September 19 and bring the collection back for the food bank.
“It is an event that makes giving easy and brings out the very best in community spirit. It takes between 60-70 volunteers to run the event each year between dropping off flyers and bags to over 4,000 homes and collecting and sorting donations,” says Geraldine Guilfoyle, who is coordinating the event. 
Last year, more than 50 volunteers visited some 4,564 homes and collected more than 8,200 pounds of non-perishable food for the Squamish Food Bank as part of the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive.  One among those volunteers is Magnuson, who helps with stapling the bags, picking up donations and managing the registration at the food drive.
Magnuson retired from a clerical job in 1992 to be a primary care giver for her husband who suffered from heart disease and Parkinson’s. She has volunteered at Pearl’s and Hilltop House and been part of a Better at Home program, along with being a member of the Squamish Multi-faith Association. She is a Bahai and a member of the Squamish Multi-Faith Association, whose members promote inter-religion harmony and community action. Being part of the food drive for Magnuson was an ideal way to be of service and be part of a diverse community working together.

The food bank drive, Magnuson says, is a tangible reminder of what a community can do when it pulls together to work as one. But there is also something intangible in this communal action — love, camaraderie, and sheer positivity. “I like the camaraderie that develops as people work together to sort the food — beans go here, pasta goes over there, where does the sardines go? Everybody is happy, and that joy just spreads and ripples outwards,” she says. Being part of the food drive also enables her to give a more practical shape to her Baha’i beliefs for her faith calls on her to worship the creator by helping fellow humankind. “Being part of the food drive lifts my spirit and draws it closer to God. I’m filled with joy in realising that I’m doing something positive for the community,” she says.
Being part of the community food drive along with her kids gives Heather Buck the opportunity to teach her children about the need to help those in need. “It educates them on challenges that some people and families are facing and how we should never take things for granted. It’s also really fun to run around the neighbourhood with friends,” she says.
Buck  got involved with the community food drive because she read a few years ago that the food bank was in dire need of donations and was at risk of shut down. School, Heather recalls, was just about to start and the thought of kids going to school hungry made her family sad. Her son and a few of her friends decided to collect food for the food bank and then joined the food drive. “It’s very satisfying to know that people in our community can rely on the food if they need to and it’s amazing how the community can come together to make this happen,” she says.
High rental cost and food prices have led to an increase in use of the Squamish Food Bank, says food bank coordinator Christina Rupp.
Rupp says the people who use the food bank include families, employed people whose wages are not sufficient to cover basic living expenses, those on social assistance, seniors and those on disability with a fixed income.
Rupp is encouraging community members to donate during the Thanksgiving Food Drive. Cash donations can be made online at Squamishfoodbank.com. For more information on how you can volunteer at this event contact gerguilfoyle@me.com