BONNERS FERRY — In every community, there are those who are able to make ends meet, and there are those who struggle to pay the bills.
In the tight-knit community of Boundary County, neighbors step up to help strangers, other neighbors, friends, and community members in their times of need. This is evidenced by the donations to local food banks, such as the Community Action Partnership (CAP).
Over the holiday season, the community stepped up to help every family celebrate through food, clothing, and present donations, which were graciously received by those in a tight spot. Now that the holidays and cold season has come to a close, CAP is looking forward to the summer season where families tend to go camping and the kids are out of school. For families who are struggling with finances, CAP continues to assist with food, assistance with electric, and even rent bills.
“We are looking at only a couple more months of school left,” said CAP Community Engagement Liaison, Liz Bigsby. “Folks tend to forget about some of that necessity, because the wonderful weather is here, let’s go have fun, and this and that.”
They are asking for summer oriented donations, such as watermelon, Popsicles, and things such as s’mores ingredients like graham crackers and chocolate, in order to assist with normality and encouraging families to participate in outdoor summer activities, in addition to more traditional donations.
After receiving a donation of marshmallows, the team got excited about ways that they could incorporate them into the food boxes for families, which further encouraged ideas about how best to package the boxes in order to encourage a more ‘normal’ range of food options during a family’s time of need.
“Anybody that needs a food box is the same kind of person that may like to go camping and has kids all summer long,” said Bigsby. “So they will need to be making a whole bunch more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We have marshmallows, so what about graham crackers and chocolate?”
The team formulates the contents of each box according to household size and children, with each box containing multiple meal ideas as well as any snack extras that they are able to provide.
“Adding a package of hot dogs or a bag of chips would be great,” said Bigsby. “We do get crackers and things like that, and it’s not that we want to focus on not being nutritious, kids just want snacks for when they are on the go.”
With summer approaching and the school days coming to a gradual end, outdoor activities are on the rise, and with them, the extra requirement of food.
“I love to see folks receive some summer fun things from us,” said Bigsby. “Popsicles, watermelon, these kids are still running on their time — they are not looking at the crisis. So for a mom to be able to hand her kid over a Popsicle, or something, makes her feel good, it helps the family feel good, and it helps to tone down that tension around being in a tough spot right now. It keeps some normalcy in the food.”
CAP is unable to accept homemade goods, but they do take home-grown products such as fruits and vegetables. They provide a wide variety of recipes to those that come in, encouraging people to make their own food products with the ingredients that they can provide.
At one point, there was a group of people that donated jars and canning materials for those in need, which was a big hit for those in need that came in.
“I could hardly keep them in here before they all got scooped up,” said Bigsby. “They wanted to do some home canning.”
At one point, there was a generous donation of small packets of laundry detergent that the team paired with dryer sheets, enabling people to do laundry. They offer what they can in the means of toiletries such as toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes, among other things. The availability of these items depends on donations received, and any donation goes straight toward those in need in the community.
Having a clean body, clean clothes, and a clean environment has proven to increase happiness and reduce stress. There have been various studies that have shown the differences in the focus and wellbeing of individuals with a cluttered living space versus keeping a neat one. With the availability of items such as self and home care items, those going through tough times may feel better having the option to feel a bit more ‘normal’ with a little help.
CAP is not only a place for people to get food assistance, but they can apply for energy assistance and help with rent, pending proper funding.
“We do get what we call Crisis Funding, which is a bucket of funding that can help in the meantime for those that are facing a shutoff notice,” said Bigsby. “It doesn’t have to be the same heat vendor that you use for energy assistance, a lot of people don’t know that. For example, if you use wood for heat, but are struggling with the electric bill, we can still help with that.”
There are grants that CAP utilizes to help those in need of assistance, but they also accept monetary donations for a specific purpose. If someone were to walk in and donate a certain amount of money, it would go towards a category such as energy assistance or help with rent. The rent assistance goes hand in hand with the help of the Community Coalition for Families. All participating organizations strive to reduce poverty rates in the area by working together and educating community members of the needs of others within the community.
“Just bring the donations in to me, and I will make sure it goes towards the intended category,” said Bigsby.
Speaking about the funding for housing assistance, Bigsby clarified that the funding does not help with finding a place to reside, but is a source of help for moving and living costs.
“It is the first time that Boundary County has had an actual program that can help with those needs,” said Bigsby.
Having medical, financial, or income issues may cause a family to search for assistance. Sometimes, due to medical issues, someone may not be able to perform a job or any potential jobs’ duties to their full ability, causing hours to be shorter and maybe pay to be less. With the basic costs of living such as food, electricity, heat source, and a phone bill on a low budget quickly adding up, people tend to look towards means of assistance. Once a week, residents can visit the CAP ‘clearing house’, which provides bread products, freshly donated fruits and vegetables, dairy products, baby food, personal hygiene products, and a variety of other basic items needed.
Community members can receive up to three food boxes per year, which begins in January and ends in December of each year, which has been a recent change.
“When we do holiday things, it is in addition to that,” said Bigsby. “I am working on getting something changed with that as I would like to see more go out, maybe a sort of emergency box.”
The Spot Bus is a transportation option for people to utilize. With a 24 hour notice, the SPOT bus picks up community members in Boundary County and delivers them where they need to go whether it be to Super 1 Foods to pick up groceries or pharmaceuticals, to visiting the CAP food bank, they are an available resource to those struggling to make ends meet or those with limited transportation. Their days and hours of operation are listed in the weekly community calendar.
“They are happy to bring you here so you can get food for your house,” said Bigsby. “You can get a food box, or whatever you need to get, and they will take you right back home.”
The SPOT bus will pick up people from Moyie Springs, and there is talk about having a route to Paradise Valley which has yet to come to fruition.
Whether a community member is in need, or has the means to donate to help someone in a tight situation, CAP is available to evenly and fairly disperse of any and all donations received to those that need it the most.
The Community Action Partnership is currently hoping to get donations of bread, cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, canned beans and refried beans, jelly, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, ramen noodles, rice, dry beans, skillet meals, soups, syrup, pancake mixes, biscuit mixes, hot dogs, hamburgers, meats, tuna, noodle sauces, and noodles, but all donations are appreciated. They are also looking to get donations of small portions of laundry soap, dryer sheets, dish soap, shampoo, and other hygiene products.
They are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with an hour closure during a noon to 1 p.m. lunch break, and bear in mind that they will be closed for national holidays.
For more information, contact Community Action Partnership in Bonners Ferry at 208-267-3663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.