The Salvation Army has had to close its food bank because of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that went into effect on Monday. (Nov 15)
Randy Gatza, a Major with Salvation Army in Quesnel, explains.
“We just don’t have enough personnel to run the operations, qualified people to run the operations. Right now our headquarters is working on trying to temporarily hire somebody who meets the vaccine mandate to run the operations. That might take another couple of weeks before we can open up again.”
Gatza says a lot of the people that help run the operation are volunteers.
“My wife and I are the officers. We have staff, we have two staff, and then most of our help is volunteers, and we have very few people that are fully vaccinated.”
Gatza says it would likely take a minimum of 6 people to run the operation, and he says you can’t just hire anyone to help out.
“You have to have trained staff because you have structures and protocols in place, and it’s not just a matter of handing out food. There is a whole accountability process that has to be in, and logistics have to be in place, so you have to have a leadership team to do that. You have to have people that are trained under the army system to be able to do that.”
Gatza says the the Warrior Song Cafe was open four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, but the dining room has been closed for a while now and they were recently just supplying meals at the door.
“We’ve been providing meals, bag lunches and occasionally we’ve been giving hot meals at the door for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The dining room was closed down over a year ago, in March of 2020, so we’ve just been giving food at the door in the form of bag lunches and giving water and stuff like that, and maintaining the safety protocols in relation to the COVID restrictions.”
Gatza says they had been doing that for more than 20 months without incident, but now the vaccine mandate came in and “messed things up.”
He says there are other groups operating in the community, the Anglican Church and Victory Way Church to name two, that have been filling in the gaps for when they were closed from Saturday through Monday.
Gatza says they served around 80 people a day this past week before they had to temporarily shut down.