Food bank executive director Airdries Newsmaker of the Year
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 06:00 am
It has been a banner year for Airdrie Food Bank Executive Director Lori McRitchie, and the Airdrie City View recognized her efforts in the community by naming her, the 2013 Newsmaker of the Year.
From travelling across the world, to lending support to those in need in Airdrie and its surrounding communities, winning numerous awards, to breaking ground on a new building for the Airdrie Food Bank, the 53 year old McRitchie said she is humbled by everything 2013 has brought her way, including the title of Newsmaker of the Year.
“I’m honoured and humbled, but it’s not really me, it’s the food bank that is the newsmaker, I’m just happy and honoured that I work here,” said McRitchie, who has been with the Airdrie Food Bank since 2006 and has lived in Airdrie since 1980.
In a city that is constantly growing in population, so too grows the demand to provide food support to children, individuals and families facing life’s challenges. McRitchie said she is blessed to work with members of the food bank board as well as with a community that time and again has displayed, “a true caring heart.”
“It’s been a time that we have been establishing many new community partners as well as continuing to work with many faithful supporters,” said McRitchie.
Supporters include, local businesses, schools, community groups and caring individuals that have helped the food bank over the years.
“These dedicated folks put cans in grocery stores, give their time and talents, hold events and provide much-needed funds that allow us to care for our community,” she said. “Because they care, we have been able to reach out, support others and move forward with our plans to expand.”
In 2013, the Airdrie Food Bank was able to meet all demand from the community, assisting 350 families per month through their bread and extras program. They gave out more than 13,000 food items through their snack attack program, served over 5,500 breakfasts through their school breakfast program and gave out over 1,300 food hampers, a record for them, to more than 3,600 people.
Through promotions such as Buy a Brick month in October, a promotion where community groups and individuals purchased “bricks” for $100 each to have name plates displayed at the new location as food bank supporters, they have sold 180 bricks. McRitchie said she fully expects that the staff at the food bank will move in to the new $1.2-million building by the spring of 2014. The new building, located next to the current site at 20 East Lake Way, will be nearly 4,000 square feet larger than their current location and will house a community kitchen, where community groups will be able to rent the space to run programs such as cooking classes, in hopes that the space will create sustainability for the food bank.
When flood waters ravaged much of southern Alberta in June, Airdrie was fortunate enough to come out for the most part, unscathed. McRitchie and the food bank staff reached out to help their neighbours in a time of need.
“During the catastrophic events in the summer, we were able to bring the community together through our Empty Bowls Festival to support flood victims,” she said.
The Empty Bowls Festival was converted to a free soup lunch for those affected by flooding. More than 3,500 people from Airdrie and surrounding areas came out and were provided with soup at no charge.
McRitchie’s philanthropic spirit reaches well beyond Airdrie and southern Alberta; in July 2014, she travelled to Cambodia to work at an orphanage named Place of Rescue, an experience that renewed her perspective and gave her a fresh view on what matters in life.
“I realized that we can all make a difference in our communities and our world,” she said. “We only need to take the first step.”
In September, Lori was given the honour of Citizen of the Year, voted by Airdrie residents, through the Airdrie City View’s Best of Airdrie reader poll.
“The job I do is only possible because of the community I live in,” she said. “It is that generosity that I am fortunate to be able to channel to others as an agency that is about neighbours helping neighbours.
“I am looking forward to what the future holds as we move into our new building and become an agency that provides not only food support, but also provides new skills and builds community with our new kitchen. Together we will continue to care for each other and make Airdrie an even stronger community.”