A Pandemic Shopping Adventure

By on March 1, 2022

It’s not every day you get a call to go on a $50,000 shopping spree. But such a call came to Freda Lepine early this year. In response to a request for emergency funding from Northern Area Bishop Isaiah Beardy, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund provided aid for communities in northern Manitoba and Ontario. They asked Freda, who serves as a member of the PWRDF’s Indigenous Partner Advisory Committee, to oversee the distribution of $50 000 worth of aid to households in 12 communities in northern Manitoba.

Lepine was the right person to call because in addition to all of her work with the An- glican Church nationally and in the Dio- cese of Brandon, Freda also serves as the vice-president of IPAM-N, the Indigenous People’s Alliance of Manitoba, north. IPAM works primarily with non-status, off- reserve, and Metis people, and Freda recognized that many of these folks needed additional support in the midst of the Omicron wave of the pandemic. So, with her connections and the fact that she is respected in so many communities, Freda was very well positioned to spearhead and manage the distribution of the funding.

So Freda went shopping!

Of course, she had some good friends helping her, particularly Darlene Mulholland, and they purchased $35,000 worth of masks, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and tissues to make up dozens of hygiene hampers for elders, families, and those who needed ex- tra support. Buying such a large amount of goods was only the first challenge though, making sure people in the communities got their hampers was the next task.

Many of us in Manitoba understand what it’s like to measure our travels in hours, not kilometers. But travelling throughout the vast land between communities in north- ern Manitoba, gives you an appreciation of the distances between communities. Freda, Darlene, and others travel led for hours from Winnipeg (where the best deals are to be had, making the PWRDF money stretch as far as possible), to communities spread throughout the north. They travel on high- ways, secondary roads, icy gravel roads and even winter roads across frozen lakes and rivers, to make sure that these communities get the supplies that they need. These trips require careful planning, co-ordination with contacts in the communities, and of course – gas. Lots and lots of gas! In fact, if you look at Freda’s carefully crafted bud- get, 30% of the donated funds have to go to travel expenses. This is another reality in the north, where costs of basic supplies skyrocket the further you go from major centres, primarily due to transport costs. That’s why these hygiene hampers are so welcome for some elders and families who can then use their limited resources on oth- er household needs.

People all across our province are becom- ing more aware of the supply challenges that northern communities face, and many people really want to help. When Freda and Darlene were shopping in Walmart, drag- ging multiple carts overflowing with hy- giene hamper supplies, a woman stopped them to ask what they were buying for. When she heard what the project was, she opened up her wallet and gave them $50! Right there in the aisle of Walmart. She didn’t want a donation receipt and didn’t give her name. She simply felt compelled to give to the folks in the north

Through her network of contacts, Freda connected with clergy and lay leaders from the communities to arrange distribution of the hamper supplies. After dropping off hampers in Grand Rapids, Freda and Dar- lene were off to The Pas where Henry Budd College became a temporary distribution centre for the communities of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Easterville, Cormorant, and Moose Lake. Clergy and lay leaders these communities came into The Pas to load up their vehicles so that they could make sure the hampers got to those who needed them most.

Freda and Darlene still have their work cut out for them – deliveries are planned for the following communities: Wabowden, Thompson, Thicket Portage and Pikwitonei (on the Bay line), Leaf Rapids and Lynn Lake, Brochet and Sherridon.

We have all felt the effects of the pandemic, we have all felt the isolation, and maybe even some of us haven’t been able to get the supplies that we need, when we need them. The generous funding from the PWRDF will go a long way to alleviate some of the pressures felt in remote or isolated communities in northern Manitoba, especially those who don’t have support from bands or ex- tended families. But generous donations are only one side of this story. It takes people like Freda Lepine to make sure the aid gets to where it needs to go. The countless hours shopping, driving, and connecting with community leaders shouldn’t be taken for granted. Freda, Darlene, and the clergy and lay leaders who serve their communities are incredible examples of service in the name of Jesus. We give thanks to God for their generous and tireless service!


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