By ALAN SHACKLETON
After 25 years of volunteering at the food bank in Glen Rhodes United Church, local resident Clarisse Tatro is stepping back and looking towards new adventures in retirement.
Tatro, and her husband Nigel Burnett, were recently honoured for their years of work with the food bank which is run by the East End United Regional Ministry at Glen Rhodes church on Gerrard Street East just west of Coxwell Avenue.
For the past several years, Tatro’s work at the food bank has included acting as the de facto manager. That has been an especially challenging undertaking over the last 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have mixed feelings about this retirement,” said Tatro at a ceremony held for her on Wednesday, May 26, to mark her last day with the food bank.
“It’s certainly going to leave a big hole in my life, and as with any change there’s some good and some bad to it.”
She said that keeping the food bank open for its approximately 1,000 clients per month has been an “enormous challenge” during the ongoing pandemic.
“It was really difficult at the beginning with the rules changing every week.”
Tatro said it was the hard work and positive attitudes of both the food bank’s volunteers and clients that have kept it operating while dealing with the changes made necessary by COVID-19 restrictions.
“The volunteers were fantastic. Everyone wanted to help, even when their families were telling them to stay home,” she said.
The food bank at Glen Rhodes has gone through the pandemic without a known case of COVID-19 among its volunteers or clients who come to the church every Wednesday.
She said that in the past year and a bit, the need among clients has increased due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. “We’ve seen an uptick in clients as so many people are being hurt by this.”
Over the past three decades, food banks and the people who run and volunteer at them have become experts at collecting and distributing food for those in need. Tatro said food banks are critical to the survival of many people and she is proud of the good work being done by the one at Glen Rhodes.
However, the need for food banks and the growing number of people depending on them should be a cause for concern not just in Toronto, but across the province and country.
Tatro said one way to help address that need is to make sure people receive enough money each month to survive.
“I am a strong proponent for a guaranteed basic income,” she said. “As little as $200 to $300 a month would make such a difference in their lives. They wouldn’t have to come here, they could buy their own groceries and secure a place to live.”
But until that time, the Glen Rhodes food bank continues to make the experience of visiting their food bank a pleasant and respectful one.
“We do our best. Organization is the key to getting this done and not wasting food,” said Tatro.
Sharing, and understanding the need to be a part of a community and helping others, comes naturally to Tatro as she grew up in a family of 14 siblings in Vermont.
She and her husband Nigel, who grew up in Etobicoke, met in Vermont.
They have lived in East Toronto since the late 1970s, and in their home in the Woodbine Avenue and Gerrard Street East area since 1982.
Along with their work with the food bank, the couple also volunteers to deliver the Beach Metro News in the community.
At the May 26 ceremony marking her retirement, Tatro received honours from the City of Toronto courtesy of Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher, a card of thanks from the church’s parent resource group, and some gifts and flowers from the volunteers and the ministry.
For more information on the food bank at Glen Rhodes United Church and how you can help support it, please go to https://eastendunited.ca/food-bank-community-dinner/