Ten months from admitting defeat in their fight to save the Minden ER, cottager Jayson Schwarz and full-time resident Debbie Sherwin have turned their attention to another local cause.

The pair met with Gary Stoner, a volunteer with the Minden Community Food Centre, March 9, donating $820.61 to the facility. The money was the balance remaining in a TD Canada Trust fund established by the pair and fellow local resident Patrick Porzuczek last summer while they searched for ways to keep the hospital’s emergency department open.

“This is the money we were going to use to hire a litigator and try to take this to court,” Schwarz said, noting at its peak the trust contained more than $60,000. “We’ve returned most of it, and while we have tried to give back this last bit of money, people said they didn’t want it. We decided to donate it to another cause – and there’s no greater cause than the food bank with everything that’s going on right now.”

Schwarz said the group was advised last summer that no judge would grant an injunction or judicial review – two “final hail marys” that could have kept the ER open. Instead of wasting all that money, they stood down and began issuing refunds.

Ross Nasseri LLP, the Toronto-based firm retained, were paid $6,780 for their services, with the fees covered by several community members.

Sherwin said as of last week all donors had been issued cheques, returning their money. The trust fund was closed March 9.

Schwarz said the group didn’t have to think too hard before deciding on donating the leftover money to the food bank.

“Because of the way things have been over the past couple of years – major inflation, carbon taxes going up, which impacts fuel prices and causes everything to go up – it’s very, very difficult for people to survive and make ends meet,” Schwarz said.

Stoner noted the donation comes at an opportune time, with demand at an all-time high.

“Our numbers are increasing again. In the last little while we’ve had lineups when we’re open, I’ve never seen that before,” Stoner said. “Cash donations are always most appreciated because it then allows us to purchase food that’s most needed.”

Jean Munroe, manager of the food centre, said an average of 261 people and 109 families have been using the facility monthly so far in 2024. That’s up from an average of 255 individuals and 90 families per month in 2023, and 230 individuals and 78 families per month in 2022.

“This year is starting off as we expected, with a jump in the monthly number of people [we’re serving]. The housing industry has hit a standstill and many individuals are getting laid off, families are finding food unaffordable along with rent and other expenses,” Munroe said. “This will be a continued trend for 2024. We do not expect a slow down or change in numbers, other than moving up, this year.”

For more information, including how to donate, visit mindencommunityfoodcentre.ca.