Members of the Odd Fellows Columbia Lodge #2 brave an early morning shift at Country Grocer in Royal Oak to fill a five-ton truck with $20

Very ‘Odd’ Christmas fills food bank shelves for Greater Victoria families

Odd Fellows raise $20,000 for The Mustard Seed holiday food hampers

They may be self-described odd fellows, but they do good work.

Last Thursday, about 40 members of a local Odd Fellows chapter descended upon the loading dock of Country Grocer on West Saanich Road to load $20,000 worth of food destined for The Mustard Seed Food Bank.

“A lot of times we find a charity we want to support, and then when we put together an event, we have 40 guys right there ready to help,” said Josh Miller, financial secretary of Odd Fellows Columbia Lodge No. 2.

Miller started the Ton of Love Project five years ago for The Mustard Seed, with the aim of donating a ton of non-perishable food. The project grew the next year, but Miller and his colleagues realized that piecemeal food donations weren’t always what families needed during the holidays.

“We wanted to be able to bring healthy, nutritious food instead,” he said. “That really made an impact, and it really became about the love rather than the tonnage.”

For the past two years, the Odd Fellows have paired up with Country Grocer to purchase and deliver thousands of pounds of fresh produce, proteins and dairy products to families at The Mustard Seed during the Christmas rush.

“Last year, we actually got to hand out the food to families in line and we saw what it meant to them,” Miller said.

“These hampers were twice the size they were last year with five times the amount of produce. It’s food that makes you feel human.”

The Mustard Seed director of food services, Brent Palmer, connected with Country Grocer to discuss the facility’s needs over the holidays, and the Odd Fellows went about raising cash. In the end, they brought together nearly $20,000, mostly from local business donations and till donations from customers at Country Grocer.

“That cash buys enough food to fill almost half of what The Mustard Seed needs for their hampers for the holiday season,” Miller said. “Country Grocer are just such a stalwart team in the community and they supported us immensely. Without them, we could have never brought this off the ground the way that we did.”

Tammy Averill with Country Grocer said the Odd Fellows have donated manpower as well for a variety of community events.

“We had to take a food bank display down at the Bay Centre last year, and the guys came out right away to take it down,” she said. “It’s just great to work with local guys. They raised $7,000 more than last year, that’s huge. And their enthusiasm is amazing, they’re just ready to go.”

Miller said part of the draw for donors he approached was ensuring them that 100 per cent of proceeds went to feeding families.

“When you’re looking for some way to give back and you’re not sure how to do it, you hook up with Odd Fellows and it’s an amazing thing,” he said.

editor@saanichnews.com