GRAVENHURST - Even the poor can have their cake and eat it too, according to Theresa and Barry Buker.
Giving their all to help their neighbours.
WALL TO WALL ITEMS. Theresa and Barry Buker of Free Stuff for Daily Needs in Gravenhurst in their living room amongst their stock of donated household items.
Their home could be featured on an episode of hoarders. The living space not taken up by piles of used household items is cramped and tiny.
But Gravenhurst’s Bukers are not hoarders, they’re givers. The mountains of appliances, furniture and various bits and pieces have been donated by community members to be passed on to families in need. Theresa calls it their ministry: Free Stuff for Daily Needs.
They’ve been passing on generosity for 13 years and plan to keep going indefinitely.
And they’ve added an additional project into the mix. Last year they self-published a cookbook for people struggling to make ends meet with the help of food banks called the Free Stuff for Daily Needs Cookbook.
They pass the book out for free to people in need and have given out more than 500 already.
Their goal is to hand out 5,000 books, but the orders are coming in faster than their personal finances can accommodate. To help finance further copies of the book, they applied for and were granted a Pay it Forward grant from the District of Muskoka. The $1,000 is being used to hold this weekend’s fundraiser for the cookbook.
Theresa said her knowledge of making the most out of a meager food budget has grown out of her own experience as a single mom.
“I was always feeding half the kids from the housing complex,” she said.
The couple is self-employed, doing painting and general maintenance for people.
“We help keep our local seniors in their homes by doing odd jobs … that’s how this all started — seniors would ask us to do cleanup and get rid of their stuff; instead of sending perfectly good stuff to the dump, we would repurpose it.”
Theresa said because they finance their Christian ministry they live on a tight budget, so she continues to find ways to make her food dollars go their furthest.
She estimates that about 1,000 families a year make use of Free Stuff for Daily Needs.
“And it seems to be growing more and more — now if we could have a way, we could do this full-time.”
Theirs is one of the first of the district’s small grants to community groups seeking to make positive change in small but significant ways.
Theresa says the people they serve have changed in the past few years.
“In the beginning we had a lot of people on welfare and disability, but the tide is changing. This year we had 20 per cent welfare, 20 per cent disability but 60 per cent are the working poor who are fighting to stay off the system,” said Theresa.
She said a client will come to them and say they are between paychecks and their microwave just blew up. Fortunately the needed item has often been donated and is being stored in one of the many overfull rooms of the home.
“The people we help come from all over. We have serviced people from North Bay to Base Borden.”
They pass on household items, including everything from beds to salt and pepper shakers.
Donations of gently used items come from all over the region.
To attend their dessert/tea party fundraiser, visit the Gravenhurst Seniors Centre on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. The cost is $20 and there will be a silent auction.
Gently used items can be brought to the home at 375 Muskoka Beach Rd. or by calling the Bukers at 705-687-4309.