Food bank open for 50 years in Pointe-St-Charles, now forced from church, gets its own storefront

Saint Gabriel's Parish in Pointe-Saint-Charles (PHOTO/Jean Gagnon)

There's some good news in Pointe-Saint-Charles: a church food bank that has helped local families for more than 45 years will keep on running, even though it's moving out of the church.

More accurately, the church building, Saint Gabriel's Parish, can no longer host the food bank or any other activities. Its inhabitants were given 48 hours this week to vacate because engineers warned its tower was crumbling.

The church is a cornerstone of Montreal's historic Irish community, but it's also stayed a key part of the southwest neighbourhood of the Pointe as the area has changed over the years.

The food bank has been serving local families since at least 1975, when sister Dianna Lieffers first arrived and took it over.

It still serves 100 families a week -- and has stayed open through this summer, which it usually doesn't do -- because people were in need during the pandemic. 

Lieffers managed to find a solution on the very tight deadline, signing a lease to take over a storefront on Centre St. that housed a dollar store up until a few months ago.

"In fact, the lady that closed it up gave us all the leftovers from her dollar store," she said Friday.

It's unclear how long the food bank will need to use its new home, but the repairs to the church will likely be a very, very slow process.

Locals have kept the food bank open all these years, said Lieffers.

"We don't get any government assistance. The people know our food bank, and we have such generous people it floors me," she said.

"Today someone walks in with $5,000 in cash to give me. These people are from the Pointe. You couldn't find nicer people than here."

When Lieffers first took over the food bank, it served more than 200 families per week, she said, but gentrification of the Pointe has left a smaller core group. 

"As time went on and condos came up and replaced homes for all the poorer people, they had to move out" of the neighbourhood, she said.


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