Wears her heart on her sleeve, loves to laugh
NORTH DUNDAS — Kim Merkley is a friend when you’re in need.
For nearly 20 years, she has run the food bank at the House of Lazarus. Her door is always open and she’s never too busy to lend a hand when you’ve stumbled across hard times.
“I love my job,” she explains. “It gives you a sense of helping your community and being there for people.”
Kim grew up in Inkerman and now calls Winchester home. She says the old rink in Inkerman was a staple of her childhood.
“It was wonderful growing up there,” Kim notes. “We were always at the rink in the winter – kids hung out there all the time.”
Her father worked at Nestlé and her mother worked at Foodland for many years.
“My mother worked there under three owners,” she explains, “so when Dan (Pettigrew) took over, we made the joke that mother was in the contract.”
Kim says her mom loved people and Foodland was the perfect place to bump into old friends and chat with neighbours.
Kim is the very proud mother of two daughters and boasts shamelessly about her two adorable granddaughters. She says her kids always come first, no matter what.
“I cleaned houses for years,” she notes, “and I used to volunteer at the House of Lazarus when it was here in South Mountain. The position for the food bank came up and the director at the time approached me and asked if I’d be interested. I told her I hadn’t thought about it and wasn’t sure if I could…so I went home and prayed about it.”
Kim put together a list of three or four things, like not being able to start until a certain time and wanting to be home for her girls when they got off the bus.
“I never thought they’d go for it, but after I expressed my concerns, she said ‘when can you start?’”
The part-time gig turned into full-time as her girls got older and Kim never looked back.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she says. “Just last week, I was out doing deliveries for Operation Backpack: basically you drop off the food, ring the doorbell and leave. Before I could get out of the driveway, I see these two little boys come out…they were all smiles and thumbs up – just so excited about this box of food that it made my day.
“Some days can be stressful and you think why am I doing this? Then you have those moment when it’s like God saying ‘this is why.’”
Kim has no plans to retire and hopes to be like her mother, working into her 70’s.
She says there have been many changes over the years at the food bank.
“When I first started, there wasn’t a lot of meat or fresh produce for our clients,” she explains. “You basically had your canned goods and boxed food, so we’ve incorporated a lot more meat, dairy and produce.”
Kim is currently focusing on the Christmas Adoption program, which pairs people in need with generous community members willing to adopt them for the holidays. People seeking to adopt a local family, senior, individual or couple for Christmas can contact Kim now by calling 613-989-3830.
Kim serves hundreds of clients on a monthly basis through the food bank and that number continues to grow.
“We live in a phenomenal community … if we’re out of something at the food bank, I can post it on Facebook and within two days, we have more than we need,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter what it is — the community always pulls through for us.”