Bill Hall: Feeding those in need of help

For 20 years, Bill Hall has been helping people in the Battlefords in one way or another, including as the food bank’s executive director, and as a local pastor.

Hall grew up in Wawa, Ont., and later attended Ambassador College in Texas and California.

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An offering opened at congregation in Battleford and Hall took the job. Hall, along with his wife Averil, came to the Battlefords in 1998. The Halls have two children, Emily and Liam.

The first year Hall was in Battleford, the local Salvation Army officer needed help over Christmas. The Salvation Army closed their food bank and their operations in spring 1999. Different organizations ran a food bank for a few years. Later, Hall co-chaired the Empty Stocking Fund, and one year went particularly well after a number of donations helped supply enough hampers for everybody in need including toys for children.

The idea came to start another food bank in North Battleford. The project received grant money from the provincial government and Hall visited other food banks in the province to see how they were operated. Hall put together a business plan and presented it, and was eventually offered the executive director position, which he held for 12 years.

Along with the Empty Stocking Fund, the position would also head the Battlefords District Food and Resource Centre, which hadn’t existed previously. The Empty Stocking Fund was originally started by CJNB in the 1950s. The fund became a non-profit in 2001 and a registered charity in June 2003. In December, the Empty Stocking Fund opened a food bank. The first location was at 1092 – 102nd St. using donated space.

In 2006, the Empty Stocking Fund moved to the former Old Fashioned Foods location at 1171 – 101st St.

Changes to the food bank Hall saw over that time included increased support from the community.

“If it wasn’t for community support we would have never existed,” Hall said. “A lot of people came on board to be our partners in the community whether by volunteering or providing financial donations.”

Christmas time, especially, attracted local volunteers and funds. Funding over the years has allowed the Empty Stocking Fund to purchase its new space, renovate the space, and purchase necessary items including a refrigerated truck.

The organization also added programs during Hall’s time as executive director.

“We started off with a Christmas hamper program and running the food bank,” Hall said, and over time, programs expanded to include Food for Kids, Milk for Kids, Coats for Kids, income tax preparation, Plant a Row Grow a Row (which encourages gardeners to grow food for the food bank), and the fine option program (which assists individuals with finding community service opportunities.)

Hall said current executive director Erin Katerynych has expanded the programs.

Use of the food bank increased during his time, Hall said.

“We were surprised when we first opened the food bank about the amount of use, and it would fluctuate over the years but there always seemed to be a steady increase,” Hall said.

Hall was also elected executive director of food banks in Saskatchewan, and sat on the board of what became Food Banks Canada. Hall also helped start new food banks.

Helping the less privileged in the community with dietary and food security issues, Hall said, is what he enjoyed most about his years as executive director, along with working with “fantastic volunteers,” and his provincial and Canadian board positions.

The role had many lessons, Hall said.

“You really need to rely on the community to support you,” Hall said. “It’s not a one-person show at all. It’s really a community effort, and from the church world community is everything.”

The Battlefords have always been “very, very supportive.”

“When we put out a call for volunteers we always got them,” Hall said.

The responsibilities of executive director and pastoring worked together.

“My church supported me and my work, which was really nice,” Hall said.  “If it hadn’t of been for the support of my congregation I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

The wider community was also involved and helped the food bank.

“It wasn’t a church food bank. It really was a community food bank and that was something we really tried to create,” Hall said, adding the involvement of the wider community continues today.

Hall said he takes special pride in the Food for Kids program and partnering with schools was a major accomplishment.

A highlight of his food bank career, Hall said, was receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. In the presentation speech, former CEO of the Regina Food Bank Wayne Helquist said Hall was central to establishing a “first-class operation,” which Helquist also described as “one of the best little food banks that you’re going to find anywhere across Canada or across North America.”

Hall is the pastor of his church’s Battleford congregation, a position he has maintained for 20 years, and is currently preparing to move, in August, into the position of president of the Canadian denomination of Grace Community International Canada.

“I feel my 20 years in the Battlelfords have been a wonderful opportunity to get to know people,” Hall said. “The Battlefords have been a wonderful place for our kids to grow up, and [there are] lots of opportunity in the Battlefords to reach out and help people.”

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