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Mustard Seed celebrates revamped facility after March fire at food bank

The church is celebrating the rebuild’s completion with an open house 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at 625 Queens Ave.
Director of development for the Mustard Seed Street Church Colleen Sparks in the chapel that was rebuilt after it was extensively damaged by fire. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

After a fire in March at the Mustard Seed Street Church, which operates the Island’s largest food bank, businesses and individual donors stepped in to help.

The fire in the front entrance of the church’s building on Queens Avenue near Government Street was relatively small, but it caused extensive smoke damage and led to several days’ worth of food having to be thrown away.

At the time, use of the food bank had jumped by 30 per cent in the preceding three months, but any items that weren’t canned or in a sealed package had to be discarded.

A huge response from the community after the fire, however, “turned adversity into an opportunity for transformation” at the site, the Mustard Seed said in a statement. Contributions included a $5,000 Telus Community Board Grant.

The result is a bigger facility that can serve more people accessing the Mustard Seed’s food bank. The church is celebrating the rebuild’s completion with an open house 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today at 625 Queens Ave.

The food bank, open Monday to Friday, provides about 1,250 hampers a month containing non-perishable food items, vegetables, dairy products and hygiene products, and offers meals six days a week, said Treska Watson, the Mustard Seed’s director of operations.

Watson said the food bank was operating out of the parking lot the day after the March 27 fire, offering groceries, hot meals and coffee — and it stayed there for about five weeks.

Activities moved inside when the food-bank portion of the operation reopened.

“We focused really hard on getting that half of the building up and running because it was proving difficult to provide full food-bank services in the parking lot,” Watson said.

Lunch service and community outreach continued in the parking lot for the next five months, but now has also moved inside after further work was done, she said.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us.”

The Mustard Seed had a more minor fire in November 2017 that was deemed arson, and damaged a historic cross on the outside wall.

The food-bank area moved to paper plates in the immediate aftermath for its hot lunches and dinners because the dishwasher was damaged by the blaze.

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