The county library does a lot more for the community than just provide books.
The Simcoe branch of the Norfolk County Public Library has opened a free pantry, and is offering patrons support of the Canadian Mental Health Association one day a week.
These are both brought in by an activist group called RISE (Raising awareness, Improving conditions, Striving for social equity, and Evaluating actions and knowledge). People can drop into the monthly RISE meetings to chat about the issues they face living in Norfolk County.
Some of the issues discussed by the group are lack of accessible and affordable housing, lack of access to nutritious food, and the general stigma attached to using programs like Ontario Works.
The Little Free Pantry has been open for almost two weeks and has already been heavily accessed by people in the community.
Anyone that would like to donate to the pantry is reminded they are not accepting food donations. They are looking for things that may not be covered by a food bank such as sanitary products, shampoo, tissues, and paper towels. All donations can be brought to the front desk.
Accessing the pantry can be totally anonymous, and it is placed in a selected area to provide privacy.
“They do not have to identify themselves, they just go over to the corner that it’s in, which is by the end of the fiction section, or they can ask staff for directions as to how to find it,” said Beverly Slater, manager of programming and communications at the Norfolk County Public Library.
The unveiling of the pantry comes just after the library system offered income tax preparation for low-income residents and families. Seven hundred returns were filed through the program.
Slater said that assisting those in need is “a very important part of our job as the library and as one of our community hubs.”
“We have a need in our community to give access and to help,” she added.
The library is also holding open office hours with Brandy Weaver, a case manager and transition support worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Brant, Haldimand, and Norfolk. The hours are currently being held on Tuesdays at the Simcoe branch.
Weaver will be open to discussing community support, counseling, family support, housing, mental health, and vocational support with anyone in the community seeking support.