Enhancing food security for struggling Manitobans

ACU’s Community Response Drive returned in 2022! 

Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) started this initiative in 2021 to help address the growing demand for food and essential items in Manitoba. It was the first program of its kind at ACU, as it involved employees and members. Across Manitoba, they united to collect crucial items in support of five local organizations that do exceptional work in their communities.

The rising need for food security

The focus in 2021 was on personal hygiene items and menstrual products. In 2022, ACU shifted its attention to essential items like bottled water, non-perishable food items and snacks, all of which had become increasingly inaccessible due to inflation.

Brendan Reimer, ACU’s Strategic Partner, Values-Based Banking

“Inflation and ongoing food security issues are something we cannot ignore,” said Brendan Reimer, ACU’s Strategic Partner, Values-Based Banking. “These economic events disproportionately affect lower-income folks. If we want a more sustainable future for all, we need to take action together to support those who have been hit hardest by these changes.”

Overflowing bins of support

Similar to the drive’s inaugural year, ACU selected five community organizations to support.

The Link Youth and Family Supports

During September 2022, donations were dropped off at all ACU branches, including the northern locations. With lofty goals to support the community, ACU employees and members didn’t disappoint. The donation bins overflowed. 

In October, ACU made deliveries to the five community partners and received an enthusiastic response. Collectively, thousands of dollars’ worth of food security items were donated to organizations that help Manitobans make ends meet. 

Leilani Esteban-Villarba, Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation Executive Director.

“The amount of baby formula that we received today is going to [have] such a huge impact on the families we serve,” said Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation Executive Director, Leilani Esteban-Villarba. 

Similarly, North Point Douglas Women’s Centre Executive Director, Tara Zajac, expressed how the donations were critical to helping them refocus funds toward their programs, including community outreach, and healing from domestic violence and parenting programs.  

North Point Douglas Women's Centre

Positive chain reaction

When they dropped off the items, ACU employees toured each organization. This was a great opportunity to see the important work being done for some of the most systematically excluded  populations in our province. 

Disraeli Branch Manager, Nishu Brar, inspired by the work of the North Point Douglas Women’s Center (NPDWC), wanted to keep up the positive momentum. She rallied her branch and family members to collect even more items.

“After receiving a tour and [getting] to hear how passionate Bernadette Folster was about her work at NPDWC, I knew I wanted to do more,” said Nishu. She collects charity donations each October in memory of her mother-in-law, who believed in doing ‘Seva,’ or selfless service.


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Related: Get to know Nishur Brar and how she’s grown her career at ACU


Creating a sense of belonging

Other organizations shared how ACU’s Community Response Drive spread a positive sense of belonging. 

“It makes a huge difference to know that they have the assurance there is a hamper being delivered to them – to know that they are not alone, that there are other people, and other agencies, that are thinking of them, and these donations will do exactly that,” said Age & Opportunity Inc. (A&O: Support Services for Older Adults) CEO, Amanda Macrae.

A&O: Support Services for Older Adults

The Link Manager of Community Services, Jody Martens, also felt the donations were a game changer.

“We see upwards of 200 youth come through the doors at our youth drop-in and shelter every month. And to be able to provide a warm meal and a safe place for youth to come — we’re super grateful. It’s really big for us,” she explained. 

Seven Oaks Immigrant Services Settlement Officer, Shivani Kashyap, said, “They [ACU] provided us with so much stuff. It [gives the] feeling that people care about community.”

Stretching donations even further

Seeing an opportunity to further their donations, Gillam Branch employees reached out to the Gillam Co-op, which generously provided their resources towards ACU’s initiative. The local business supported the drive by advertising on their social media accounts. They also had their cashiers mention the drive to members at the check-out, making it a seamless way to donate. 

As ACU is a financial co-operative, this community partnership was a great example of co-ops supporting each other. All in all, the act of giving back resonated with ACU employees. 

Nishu Brar, Disraeli Branch Manager,

“When a community thrives, we all thrive,” Nishu said. When it comes to  the communities these organizations support, “you can see first-hand the impact you’re making on their lives, and honestly it makes a large impact on my life as well.”

Kevin Sitka, President & CEO

“I’m honoured to be part of ACU’s Community Response Drive and so very proud of how our members, employees, and partner organizations stepped up to help where it matters most,” reflected ACU President & CEO, Kevin Sitka. “Working with the community and leading initiatives like this is part of who we are as a socially responsible financial co-operative.” 


If you are interested in supporting our partner organizations, please visit them online:


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About Maria Cristina Laureano

MC (Maria Cristina) Laureano is ACU's Community Relations Specialist. She oversees ACU's grants and sponsorships program and, as her title implies, she is out in the community engaging with partners to strengthen ACU's community involvement initiatives. Along with her community work at ACU, MC is an avid volunteer and is part of numerous boards and committees — community is definitely one of her passions!

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