A new local service is offering relief amid skyrocketing costs of living, in the form of groceries, winter clothing, and warm meals. Conayt Friendship Society recently opened the doors to Yeye?’s Pantry, a new resource in their downtown location for locals to access dry goods and other necessities. Yeye? means grandmother in the Nlaka’pamux language, bringing a sense of familiarity and warmth when accessing the pantry. 

While Yeye?’s Pantry is relatively new, Conayt has offered outreach services to community members for a number of years, including a weekly soup kitchen. Their intent is to fill the gap in other locally available services, such as the Nicola Valley and District Food Bank. The food bank currently operates Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, hence Yeye?’s Pantry’s days of operation being Monday and Friday, by appointment. 

“We’re really considering the other organizations and services that are open, and the people that can’t go there for some reason,” said Tracy Joseph, youth and family support worker. 

“We can maybe help them. We wouldn’t turn anyone away, regardless of the day.” 

Those accessing Yeye?’s Pantry, which is open to the public, can expect a private appointment to shop for the dry goods and basic groceries offered within. Conayt also offers winter clothing necessities such as toques, gloves, and jackets, along with the building’s foyer being open to the public and stocked with coffee, tea, and limited breakfast options. Conayt staff occasionally do street outreach, handing out items such as mittens and snack bars to Merritt’s unhoused and vulnerable population. 

Conayt’s soup kitchen program, which has been running for a number of years, offers soup and other similar meal options on Thursdays from 11:30 to 12:30. Anyone is welcome to attend and share in the soup, conversation, and learn more about other Conayt resources such as Yeye?’s pantry. Roughly 100-150 individuals attend the friendship centre’s soup kitchen on a weekly basis. Coordinators of the program say the need for it is evident. 

“This is my hometown, I left for many years, but in the last four years I’ve noticed all the people out there,” Barb Heard, community outreach and food security coordinator. 

“The numbers are incredible. I went down to the river in the summer, and I turned around and they were lined up with tents. I’ve never seen anything like that, and that was just in one spot. The need is horrific.”

Those interested in volunteering for the soup kitchen program or with Yeye?’s Pantry should call the Conayt main line at 250-378-5107. The organization also accepts donations of non-perishable food items and new winter clothing for distribution, but donors are asked to call ahead due to limited storage space. 

Conayt Friendship Society and Yeye?’s Pantry are located at 2164 Quilchena Avenue in downtown Merritt. For more information, visit www.conayt.com.