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The rain didn’t dampen the parade.

Despite a brief downpour, Port Cares was still able to celebrate the ribbon cutting at their Reach Out Centre.

The various groups like the EarlyON team, the literary team, and housing and homelessness services all had different activities available such a bubble station, activity kits, an obstacle course, free books for adults, and a lemonade and refreshment stand.

“It feels great to once again have a traditional in-person event at our Reach Out Centre,” said Christine Clark Lafleur, executive director at Port Cares. “We’re so excited for this fun day and we can’t wait for you to see our new outdoor space that clients can start using to enjoy their fresh meals each week.”

Clark Lafleur said she was happy to have an “outdoor area so we can have community events, children’s programming. We’ve never had this kind of facility before, and where we’re standing was the location where there was a tragic fire in December 2016,” she said.

Clark Lafleur said the project was helped by grants and funding from Jungbunzlauer and the Karl Kanane Foundation, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Reach Out Centre manager Amanda Upper called the centre a “lifeline.”

“It is a place to turn when you’re struggling to put food on your table, simply put,” she said. Upper explained how the centre functions as a “a gateway to connecting people to services that can improve their overall household situation.”

“It begins with the food, but there’s usually a lot more to the picture, so we have utility supports programs out of Port Cares and housing help,” said Upper.

Upper explained how the original building did not work as well in a COVID-19 environment. “The building wasn’t COVID friendly as far as distancing, and the ability to sanitize and space ourselves with those who might have been coming to access the food bank.” The new addition has allowed us to reconfigure how we operate food bank so it’s safe, she said.

“We need to be able to support and meet the demands of the public who are in that position of need. We need donations on the regular, we need the support of the community. It takes a community to take care of a community,” said Upper. “We’re just friends helping friends, neighbours helping neighbours in need and whatever you’re able to give, whether it’s a perishable or non-perishable food donation, money donation or time donation.”

“Volunteer opportunities are open and sometimes that donation of time is especially valuable to us,” said Upper.

Thanks to generous donations, a free barbecue was held.

Describing themselves as a “wraparound agency,” Port Cares offers housing, employment search, employer assistance, skills training, a food bank, meals for the needy, specialized assistance for low income seniors and families with children, early childhood development and parenting skills through six EarlyON Child and Family Centres located across Niagara as well as a virtual service, utility assistance, counselling and crisis intervention services. They also offer seasonal programs like Coats for Kids, Give a Gift and more.

Since the pandemic started 26 months ago, the number of people receiving relief services through Port Cares has grown by 35 per cent. To put a number to it, they’re serving roughly 2,300 unique individuals and about 1,000 per month. This includes the food bank, seniors emergency boxes and meal program. Seniors and children make up the highest number of clients served.

To learn more about Port Cares or to donate, visit portcares.ca.