‘I have to do this’: ‘Bannock Lady’ marks 5 years serving meals to Winnipeg’s homeless

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It’s been five years since Althea Guiboche started the work that would earn her the title of Winnipeg’s ‘Bannock Lady’.

What started off as just Guiboche handing out bannock to Winnipeg’s homeless in 2013 has grown to an effort that now sees her and volunteers not only giving out a warm meal to people in need, but also working to create a community — or a village — as Guiboche describes it.

The twice-a-month effort, known as Got Bannock?, marked its fifth anniversary this weekend.

Guiboche and supporters celebrated with a community dinner Sunday afternoon.

Got bannock 2

Volunteers served dinner at a celebration to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Got Bannock? Sunday Jan. 21, 2018. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“It’s been a challenge but it’s been so much fun at the same time,” said Guiboche said during the party held at the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre. “It’s about networking and bringing people in together, sharing, caring and celebrating the village — it’s amazing.”

Guiboche started Got Bannock? after she found herself homeless with her three small children in 2011.

Got Bannock? was officially registered as a charity in 2017 and since her own time living on the streets, Guiboche has become a well-known advocate for Winnipeg’s most vulnerable.

The work has earned Guiboche a number of awards.

“In response to my own homelessness this is what I’ve done,” she said Sunday.

Food and community

Among the volunteers who came out to help serve dinner at Sunday’s celebration was Winnipeg-born Olympian Clara Hughes.

It’s the first time the former cyclist and speed skater has worked with Got Bannock?, something Hughes says fits right in with her work to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Clara Hughes

Winnipeg Olympian Clara Hughes was among the volunteers who helped serve dinner at a celebration held to mark the fifth anniversary of Got Bannock Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“It’s a fantastic program that is providing nourishment for this community,” Hughes said of Got Bannock?.

“Mental health issues manifest differently in every person but they affect more than one in five Canadians and when I look at what people need for wellness, food and nourishment is one thing and community is another thing…  that is what is provided here.

“It all goes hand-in-hand, it’s all connected, so for me it’s just everything comes full-circle, and it comes back to human beings being good to each other.”

Got Bannock? serves up fresh meals on the first and third Sunday of every month, and Guiboche says each day sees 300 people fed.

Amazingly all that work is still done without a permanent facility for storage.

Guiboche says finding a space for storage and possibly opening a drop-in centre are among her plans for the charity going forward.

“There’s so many opportunities that can happen,” she said. “I’m not going to stop — I have to do this.”

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