Special delivery for Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold

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It was like Christmas for the staff and volunteers at Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, as they peered out the windows of the North Street food bank waiting for a special delivery.

Community Care, thanks to donations and support from Elevate Living, Cntnr and Recorr Inc., has a new temporary food distribution area that addresses both COVID-19 and weather concerns.

With the pandemic continuing to affect how they serve their clients, staff and volunteers with Community Care had to modify the food bank process, using a tent in the rear parking lot. However, with winter coming, it was quickly becoming impractical.

“Not knowing when (the pandemic) will be over, we needed to adjust how we deliver our services,” said executive director Betty-Lou Souter.

“We had to do something quickly, and they did it quickly.”

The solution came in the form of shipping containers.

Cntnr is an Edmonton-based company that this year opened a manufacturing facility in Welland. The company repurposes shipping containers, which typically are only used for shipping once, and constructs buildings from them. Its focus is on building much-needed attainable and affordable housing, said Greg Nakonecznyj, design manager for Cntnr.

The company has partnered with Niagara developer Elevate Living, which focuses on building affordable housing options, and together they developed and donated the solution for Community Care.

And it wasn’t an easy task, going from concept to construction in a month and a half.

“We compressed the whole 10-week project into six weeks. It was a team effort,” said Nakonecznyj, describing many sleepless nights as it was planned out.

The distribution area will provide a single point of contact and allow staff and volunteers to get food to clients more quickly and safely, while doing so in a building that has electricity and heat. This will be the first external project for Cntnr in Niagara, said Nakonecznyj.

Drew Toth, owner of Elevate Living, said he was contacted by St. Andrews Ward Coun. Matt Harris about Community Care’s issue.

“He told me they have to set up a COVID-19-friendly distribution centre,” said Toth.

The container solution made sense because it can be temporary, movable and could be accomplished quickly. Souter said other options were looked at and the timelines were measured in months, not weeks.

Recorr Inc. jumped on board to provide doors and windows.

“It’s a sign to see what can happen when people work together,” said Souter.