Looking after Canterbury families in need

Leonie Corry.  Photo: Geoff Sloan
Leonie Corry. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Leonie Corry co-founded the Ellesmere Food Bank in 1995, providing food for families in need. She spoke to Devon Bolger about helping the community and receiving a Queen’s Service Medal.

What first got you started at the Ellesmere Food Bank?

It all began because God placed it in my husband Daniel’s heart to start a food bank for those who were needing help. It was an interesting time as people were moving out here looking for cheaper rent and there were a lot of single parents. We knew people needed help and there was a real need in the community that we wanted to fulfil.

Could you tell me a little bit about the history of the food bank?

It has been up-and-running since 1992. That is when we started getting bread from KBs hot bread shop in Colombo St. We got it three days a week and gave it out to families in the district and it went on from there. Then we started getting apples from Mark and Sue Nixon at Selwyn Orchards. There were 600 trees and we picked and picked for many seasons. Doug and Helen Skinner let us go and glean through what was left in their spud paddock. Every week we took a truckload of spuds into Majestic House, the Christchurch City Mission and the Delta Trust. They would also give us food in return, it was a lovely arrangement. The food bank was officially established in 1995. That’s how it all started and we have been operating ever since, about 25 years. I would like to thank all the wonderful people of Selwyn who donate to the food bank at Christmas and our generous suppliers including New World Lincoln and Fresh Choice Leeston.

What services do you provide?

There are many things we can offer people who are struggling. I have a background in nursing and my husband Daniel is also a trained addiction counsellor. We have a range of skills that can help to give people hope and prayer. All donations are tax-deductible. Through the food bank we provide food to schools, services, and other food banks in Christchurch and occasionally the West Coast, I think on average we distribute about 3500 food parcels a year. We have a network of food suppliers and a system for keeping costs low in which we collect fresh produce from the Selwyn District and provide this to Christchurch food banks in return for nonperishable items.

Has the food bank been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

I think some people think that we aren’t open at the moment, we have called a few people and they assumed we would be closed so we just want to get the message out there that we are still operating during our normal hours. We won’t allow anybody on the property but people can just call up.

Could you tell me about your services during the Christchurch earthquakes?

Following the earthquakes, we provided food parcels directly to those in need in the worst hit areas on the east side such as Aranui. We had very high demand during that time and the food bank provided 300 per cent of its usual output in 2011. We also gave food to North Canterbury residents after the Kaikoura earthquake.

How long have you lived in the district?

We have lived in Selwyn since 1986. We have always been here in Leeston. The community is great and very supportive.

What do you like about living there?

I think that it is a great place to bring up children. We have three and they have all loved their sport which there is plenty of around here.

Could you tell me more about your family?

My husband and I have two daughters, Teresa and Marcela, and a son named Daniel. We also have grandchildren.

Do you have any hobbies or skills outside of the food bank that you enjoy?

I have quite a lot I would say. I really enjoy spending time with my family and my grandchildren. I love to read, especially enjoying a good book in the sun. I enjoy going for walks in nature away from man made things and doing a bit of gardening. God’s word is also important to me.

You received a Queen’s Service Medal in 2015 for your services to the community, how did that feel?

Pretty amazing and pretty humbling. The good thing about it was that it brought much more attention to the food bank that way so we were able to help more people. My husband Daniel also received a Queen’s Service Medal in 2018 for his services to the community.

You have been doing this for more than 20 years now, what keeps you going?

We enjoy doing what we do and we know that it’s good for us to keep moving, physically and mentally.

Do you have plans to retire from the food bank any time soon?

We are Christians so we will just keep going and doing our best to help those in need until God tells us to stop but until then, we plan on continuing to help the community

  • To get in touch with the Ellesmere Food Bank, which is still open during the lockdown, phone Leonie Corry on 03 324 3576







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