Parker Street Food and Furniture celebrates three decades

Yvette d'Entremont
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Mel Boutilier credits the support of his wife, Thelma, for his many years of volunteer work at the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank.

What started as a small idea 30 years ago has grown into a large operation that now feeds about 250 families every week.

Next month the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank celebrates its 30th year providing food, furniture, professional skills development, mentoring and support services to low income residents in HRM.

When executive director Mel Boutilier founded the non-profit charity in 1983, he couldn't have imagined Parker Street would grow to the extent it has. About 250 families rely on Parker Street for their food each week.

"I'm just finding out how massive this thing has grown. It is unbelievable," says Humphrey Longard, who's acting as executive director while Boutilier recovers from surgery. "This has been a one man operation, and there's so much to do all the time."

Boutilier is well known for his tireless efforts on behalf of Parker Street clients.

Longard has volunteered with Parker Street from its inception. He believes the biggest change in the 30 years since Parker Street opened its doors is the number of people who need food. He believes Parker Street has been embraced by the community because of the way volunteers compassionately offer assistance to those who need it most.

"We have shown the community that we are committed and interested in serving their needs with compassion, and the community has responded in a positive way," he says.

On Sept. 17, a 30th anniversary auction and dinner will be held at the Cunard Centre. Longard says the fundraiser is very important to the organization, as it raises the operating funds that enable Parker Street to continue offering its emergency projects.

"It's so encouraging to see people step up to the plate and organize this for us," he says.

"The community overall, including the business community, has supported us right down the line."

The dinner will feature Colin MacDonald, chairman of Clearwater, as keynote speaker. Tickets cost $150 per person or $1,250 for a table of 10. Order tickets online at www.parkerstreet.org or by calling 425-2125.

Organizations: Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank, Cunard Centre, Clearwater

Geographic location: Parker Street, HRM

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