Despite a plunge in donations and mounting operational costs, the leadership of the Agape Centre says the facility will not close.
In separate interviews with Seaway News, executive director Alyssa Blais and board chair Brian Snyder refuted a report out of Ottawa that suggested if things don’t improve at the local soup kitchen and charity it may be forced to shut down.
“I don’t think we’ll let it close down,” Blais said. “What are we going to do? Let people starve?”
Blais and Snyder said the Agape Centre has been forced to cut costs, including not replacing four paid positions that were vacated within the last year via attrition.
“We’re always looking at ways to cut costs,” said Snyder.
But things are still tough. Between April and August this year individual donations dropped by $20,000.
“We literally go month to month,” she said. “We don’t have any money. It’s not like we have a stockpile somewhere.”
CTV Ottawa was in Cornwall this week to film a segment on the centre which has faced one of its most difficult years since its creation.
The segment included a suggestion that the facility could close.
“I’m not concerned about that (closure),” said Snyder. “Cornwall is a very charitable community.
“We’re going to be able to help the community.”
Blais agreed more donations would help – but stopped short of suggesting the Agape Centre may need to consider more drastic ways to cut costs.
“Our accountant has told us we can’t cut anymore,” said Blais, who added the costs of operating a huge facility on Fifth Street West are also making things tough on the charity.
But she said there are currently no plans for the Agape Centre to divest itself of the building and its operational costs.
Snyder added the mortgage on the property will be paid by the end of this year, freeing up much-needed funds on a monthly basis.
He also said the charity has not provided raises to employees this year as another way to help keep costs low.
“And they’re not highly-paid people,” said Snyder, adding wages hover at the $10 to $15-range. “People aren’t making tonnes of money.”
The Agape Centre serves 14,000 meals a month, through its food bank and soup kitchen.
The vast majority of clientele at the facility are repeat customers, those Blais says are either on some kind of social service or include the working poor who make a minimal amount of money.
A typical month at the Agape Centre will see between 870 and 950 people come through the doors of the food bank – but only as many as 40 are new customers.
Clients of the food bank are only allowed to visit the facility once a month, and are usually provided with between three and five days worth of groceries.
“If we don’t come together as a community…we can’t keep doing what we are doing,” said Blais. “There’s no way.”
Grant applications have been sent to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Cornwall looking for some financial relief. But there has been no timeline attached to the Trillium foundation response, and the city budget process will not begin until the new year.