Outgoing Flamborough Food Bank manager Gail Bosma shows off a plaque from the City of Hamilton acknowledging her years of service at her retirement party Oct. 21 at the Carlisle United Church. – Mac Christie/Metroland
New Flamborough Food Bank manager Jim Leamen (left) stands alongside outgoing manager Gail Bosma at the food bank at Bosma’s retirement gathering Oct. 21. – Mac Christie/Metroland
After 27 years at the helm of the Flamborough Food Bank, Gail Bosma is giving up the reins.
“It’s been an absolute awesome honour for me to have been associated with the Flamborough Food Bank,” Bosma said at her retirement celebration Oct. 21 at the Carlisle United Church. “Most people retire when they hit 30 years, so I guess this could be considered an early retirement.”
Bosma, who lives in St. George with her husband Jake, thanked all the volunteers who she worked with over the years.
“It’s been a fabulous ride for so many years,” she said. “I have just loved every minute of it and will miss it terribly, I think.”
Bosma noted when people come through the food bank’s doors many are shy and uncomfortable.
“But we greet them with a smile, quite often a hug, and definitely with compassion,” she said. “Every one of the volunteers that work here have that compassion.”
For her part, Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge said Bosma “has been an absolute treasure for the Flamborough Food Bank.”
Partridge added Bosma has also been involved in partnerships with other organizations, such as Drummond House and the Flamborough Women’s Resource Centre.
“I want to personally thank you so very much for your mentorship … we’ve really been able to do a lot in our community and you’re always there ready to listen and toss around ideas.”
Retiring food bank board chairperson Susan Romano said the food bank came to be after the Carlisle United Church minister offered food from the church cupboard to a person in need.
The idea of a food bank was put to the congregation and Gail jumped on board — and has been on board ever since.
“Twenty years ago in their 1976 brown van, with some of the Bosma clan taking up valuable real estate inside, Jake and Gail picked up groceries, delivered, handed out turkeys — you name it, they did it,” Romano said.
She noted the food bank has been involved in programs at local schools — including providing money for high school students to purchase lunches, as well as the popular backpack program.
Romano added the Review would often provide coverage of the food bank’s activities and Bosma would request volunteers show up for photos — however, she received a lot of resistance.
“So week after week, Gail’s mug would appear in the paper,” Romano said. “But as our visibility increased, so did our donations — thanks to Gail’s tireless efforts.”
Romano joked that Bosma received a “salary” of 50 cents per hour — the average hourly wage in 1941.
“Clearly, this was a labour of love for Gail,” she said. “I have personally seen Gail reach into her purse to loan cash to a client, worry about a family who had no heat and arrange for wood to be delivered to that house, arrive with warm clothes for a client, deliver groceries, ensure that a client whose windows were sealed got a fan.
“The list goes on and on.”
Romano added the Flamborough Food Bank also conscripted a small army behind Gail — the Bosma family.
She noted the Bosma’s four children have been involved in everything from collecting donations at the Rockton Fair to computer assistance.
“Thanks to the entire family to their commitment.”
Bosma also thanked her family for their tireless support over the years.
“Most of the time they got dragged into helping out because I couldn’t find anyone else to do it,” she said.
She added it was time to pass the reins to the new managing director, Jim Leamen.
“It’s time to let go and hand over the job,” she said, noting Leamen is great with the clients and volunteers and has a lot of administrative experience.
In an interview, Bosma said it was fabulous to be feted with the retirement celebration.
“All the people that came out — even the clients — the other weeks they came and hugged me,” she said. “I’ll miss them.”
Bosma said even though she stepped away from the food bank earlier this fall, she’s not used to the change yet.
“I’ve been here a few times,” she said. “I keep bringing paperwork in an Jim puts it on the computer.”
Bosma admitted she isn’t sure what she’ll do with her time.
“Probably by January or February I’ll be bored out of my mind and want to come back,” she said with a laugh.
Bosma said she got involved with the food bank and stayed involved for so many years because of her love for the clients.
“I just love the clients — that’s the part that I’ll miss the most — just relating to people who need a smile, a hug,” she said. “You take them into the office, they can have a good cry.
“You give them a hug and they go out with a smile on their face.”
“It’s been a fabulous ride for so many years.” — Gail Bosma