Food banks often start with the churches, which are acting out their faith’s instructions to look after the poor.
In Dawson, the Transients’ Dinners that take place during the month of May are run by all the churches working together, using the available space and kitchen at St. Mary’s Catholic Church to make sure that summer workers, many of whom arrive without a lot of resources, get at least one good meal a week during the first month of each summer season.
Working on a smaller scale, St. Paul’s Anglican Church has a program called the Deacon’s Cupboard, which provides a limited food supply for people — mostly men — who are temporarily down on their luck.
The biggest food bank program in the town was run for about two decades out of the Dawson City Women’s Shelter. For many years this served both men and women, but just over a year ago, distribution of food hampers to men was shifted to St. Paul’s and amalgamated with the Deacon’s Cupboard program.
As of last fall the entire program has been transferred to the Dawson Community Chapel on Fifth Avenue, just across the street from the Gold Rush Campground.
Maria Nyland, one of the people running the operation, says her congregation collectively decided to get involved.
The church converted one of its Sunday school rooms into a storeroom. It is securely locked up when not in use, but it contains a couple of large freezers and floor-to-ceiling shelves of canned and dry goods.
Mining and exploration camps donated their surplus supplies in the fall. The grocery stores made donations. There was a grant from the City of Dawson. The Pioneer Women of the Yukon donated funds towards the purchase of a freezer.
“It’s been amazing, the support of the community and people wanting to get behind it,” Nyland says. “I think it’s an outlet for people wanting to do charity and to do it in Dawson.”
While the people running the food bank will respond to emergency situations, Tuesdays from noon to 5 p.m. are the regular hours and they encourage people to plan for that.
Nyland says that the weekly use of the food bank varies widely.
“Some weeks there’s no one and then the next there are 15 or 20 people,” she says. “We try to give two or three days worth of food and encourage people to make monthly visits.”
The Women’s Shelter still has some involvement, handling the annual distribution of food hampers that has become part of the pre-Christmas season here — with food being collected at all the schools and churches.
Taken together, its clear the Klondike community tries to care for those who need some extra help.