Brenton Kehler is a volunteer at Winnipeg Harvest. He’s alternated between filling orders and sorting food for the past three years.
“I also use food banks because being on Employment Assistance I have less money to work with than some people,” says Brenton. “Working at Winnipeg Harvest, I found out there are a lot of people worse off than me, and it makes me feel good to be able to help them out.”
At 33 years old, Brenton says he’s been on Employment Assistance and using food banks since he moved out of his parent’s house 10 years ago.
“After visiting so many food banks, one day I decided I wanted to know about how they work,” says Brenton. “My EIA worker told me to go to Winnipeg Harvest and that decision changed my life.”
Over the years, Brenton has become a real community champion of Winnipeg Harvest. He is not shy about telling people about his experience here, what we do, the impact we make, and how they can get involved.
One of the things that really helped Brenton was participating in our Warehouse Training Program, offered at no charge to food bank clients to help them get back into the workforce and out of poverty.
“I’ve also gone through training here, so I’ve learnt a lot from Harvest. Winnipeg Harvest feels like a family to me.”
Thank you Brenton!
David Wright is one of several graduates of the Winnipeg Harvest Kitchen Training Program. David learned about Harvest’s Training Program reading the Down to Earth Cookbook, while doing home renovations for Yoko Chapman, the book’s creator. 50% of the Cookbook’s sales proceeds support Winnipeg Harvest and its programs.
“My partner actually saw [the Kitchen Training Program] first,” says David. “She initially brought it up because she wanted to do it. I was like ‘are you going to do it? Because I’m going to do it if you’re not – that looks awesome!’”
David says Harvest’s Training Program gave him meaningful employment skills, resources and references, while boosting his overall self-esteem and confidence. He earned certifications in Food Handler Training and Workplace Hazardous Material Information System, and prepared for the workforce by attending additional employment workshops.
“It only took a week of applying [for jobs] before I got flooded with calls,” says David. “Prior to the Kitchen Training Program I may not have applied for certain positions, but now I’m certain I could easily walk in there and do that job.”
A short time after graduation, David did secure several job offers. He chose to work full-time at Prairie Ink, a restaurant and bakery located inside Grant Park Shopping Centre – and he loves it! He credits the Harvest Training Program for inspiring him to change his life path.
“I just felt like I had to do something absolutely different in order to inspire change that would motivate me to want to be out there…I was getting a little down,” says David. “The one thing I noticed about Harvest that I appreciated significantly is that when I was helping make food, people were telling me their stories. I appreciated the way that I could relate to a large portion of the people that were here, and certain aspects of what they’ve gone through in their life. I heard a few very uplifting stories.”
To learn more about our training programs, click here.
Robert Pavao & Tammy Pacaniosky
Four years ago, Robert Pavao was in a devastating car accident. He broke multiple bones including his pelvis and shoulder and suffered major brain injuries. Robert now volunteers at Winnipeg Harvest Monday and Fridays to meet to friends and get out of the house.
“I wish I could come here more times,” says Robert.
Tammy Pacaniosky, of Tammy’s Mobile Handi Transit Services, is Robert’s companion. She assists Robert during his time volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest, and transports him to and from. Transportation costs are covered by the Manitoba Brain Injury Association.
“I think the best thing is (Winnipeg Harvest) is a place you can meet people, work together, and work in a community more than anything,” says Tammy, who volunteers alongside Robert. “I think it’s more than even just being able to come and get your food. There’s so much more here.”
Tammy says she brings her nine-year-old son, who also has life challenges, here to participate as well.
“(My son) worked a lot in the kitchen and became friends with everyone, and I think they like him as much as he likes them. It’s been a great experience.”
Tammy says she also sees huge improvement in Robert’s social skills, noting that he’s made a ton of friends since volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest.
“Tammy told me I’m open [since coming to Winnipeg Harvest], I talk to more people and that’s good,” says Robert. “I was quiet, too quiet.”
Robert volunteers in sortation and the kitchen – but his favourite is sorting potatoes. Upon visiting Winnipeg Harvest’s warehouse, you’ll always find him there.
Thank you, Robert and Tammy, for helping us fight hunger and feed hope.
To learn more about our volunteer opportunities, click here.