Lawrence Shebib is the coordinator of the North Sydney Food Bank. Under Shebib’s guidance, the food bank has moved to a new location, the former Seton Elementary School site, where it has become a community hub, aiming to assist clients in new areas such as housing and employment. In May 2021, Shebib was named as one of Dr. Strang’s Community Heroes.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
What to say about myself… Well, I’m in my 18th year of retirement. However even before my retirement (while working with St. Vincent De Paul) I was volunteering with the food bank. So I have been involved for quite some time. Since retirement, I volunteer full time for the North Sydney Food Bank. I don’t consider it work. I get a lot more back from it than I put in. I love the work and community that come with it.
Aside from the food bank, I have three grown children, all successful, kind and with a good work ethic. As well, I am blessed to have grandkids who are also doing well.
My wife, who I lost in February, 2020… we were together for 54 years, 52 of them happily married. Although I miss her every day, I have so much to be thankful for and that’s what I focus on. Not her being gone, but her memory and my love for her.
Tell me a little bit about the North Sydney Food Bank
The food bank here in North Sydney was formed in 1994 when a group of churches came together with several service clubs to form the North Sydney Food Bank Society. One of the main reasons for its formation was to better serve the hungry in the community and to have less duplication of services.
Our primary purpose is to ensure that no one in our community is suffering from hunger.
Every month we see around 180 families come through these doors, we make sure that everyone leaves with the food and supplies they need. For a small community that’s a lot of people whose needs are not being met.
Our goal is to be more than a place where the hungry come to get food. We are beginning a process where we will be assisting our clients in other areas such as housing, employment and referring them to other agencies that will help them make life better for themselves; a space that strives to be as barrier free as possible.
The new building we are in makes this all a reality. It’s much more accessible, less traffic and so much more space to offer more services. It’s not rocket science. When you have more space to work with, your capacity to do things is enhanced and you have time to prepare!
The food bank is entirely led by volunteers. I have a core five people who are there every day. We pick bread up, sweets and rolls at sobeys daily, and sift through donations and organize the food in a way that makes sense. We try not to have one person doing everything, but many people doing many things. The burnout is real, even in volunteering. We try to divide the work up so no one person will be stressed.
We offer hope no matter what. Even to the volunteers who come every day offering their own.
What do you love about the Northside?
I love the people in the Northside. The community support. That’s what makes it special. It’s so heartwarming to see people donating time, food, and money. Recently we had some wood go missing from our garden beds, we made a post asking for some support and within eight hours we had seven offers to replace it. That’s just incredible!!!
When you think of the word Changemaker, does anyone you know come to mind?
I think about people like Lisa Bond. The work she has done with The Caring Closet has been so wonderful. It’s really caught on and it’s amazing that something like that makes such a difference; one person deciding they want to support their community. I hear people talking about it regularly.
I also think that the people who volunteer alongside me are changemakers and I strongly believe that it’s important to surround yourself with kind, smart people. That’s really helpful. They bring new ideas and fresh hope.
What are your hopes for the Northside?
My hopes for the Northside are based around how the Food Bank can support our community. We would like to decrease food insecurity, making sure people have enough to eat. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the child poverty rate. Food is not the answer to that.
Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy?
Getting to spend time with my children and grandchildren.
What is the one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now?
I am so grateful for the life that I had with my wife and the family that we raised together, number one. And I am grateful to have the energy to do what I do at the food bank.
The North Sydney Food Bank Society has moved to Seton School. Seton School is located just off Regent Street at 25 Wilkie Avenue. To volunteer or donate call 902-794-1104