Barrie Uncovered

The Urban Pantry and our Community

Kim Keckes and Jenna Zardo of Urban Pantry

Urban Pantry, a CMHA initiative funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is a vital, grassroots movement for every resident in the city.

Many of us don’t realize how deeply important our non-profit groups are and what they succeed in achieving!

Urban Pantry actually encompasses three vital programs available to everyone.

Jenna Zardo explains each of the programs and the positive impact they have for each of us.

Introducing the Community Garden Program

First we have the wonderful Community Garden program, enjoyed by so many.  The gardens were first established by Living Green a number of years ago, however are now implemented and run by Urban Pantry.

The City of Barrie is the contact point for signing up for the gardens. The allotment gardents are a great opportunity for those who don’t have outdoor space and can be a way for families to be engaged together outdoors.  They are also wonderful for residents that desire to cut cost, eat fresh, share, learn and teach others.  In order to obtain a plot in your local Community Garden, you need to register with the City of Barrie.  Urban Pantry works in collaboration with the City making them accessible to as many residents as possible.

The gardens promote education and healthy eating, but most importantly Community caring and sharing.

The garden in my neighborhood is a tribute to many.  Even last summer with social distancing a must, it was a place to share space and meet friends!  Excess produce was shared amongst neighbors or donated – how wonderful is that!

Urban Pantry would love to see more volunteers out there!  This is a call out to you – Master Gardeners!  It’s a wonderful way to pass your skills and love of the garden to others.

There are more gardens in the planning stages – Thank Goodness!  Research strongly shows that Community Gardens not only increase neighboring home values, but have a huge impact in disadvantaged neighborhoods – reducing crime by increasing community togetherness.

Each garden comes at a cost though.  It takes anywhere from 5-20K to ready and maintain a neighborhood garden.  At the higher cost the gardens offer mobility- impaired residents the ability to enjoy gardening in raised beds.

Because of costs there is always a need for donations and fundraising.  Every little bit helps!

Introducing the Good Food Box Program

Volunteer, Good Food Box Program
Good Food Box

The second part of the 3-part initiative is the Good Food Box program.  This is a monthly, pre-order program of a box of wholesome seasonal fruit and vegetables.  It’s a very affordable way to eat good, healthy food.

The program is open to all Barrie Residents making it a very successful and convenient way of shopping!

Introducing Community Cooking Classes

Bev MacDonald volunteer community cooking class facilitator
Cooking class prepared meal

The final part of Urban Pantry’s three-part program is their Community Cooking Classes.

The classes are a wonderful way to teach young moms, independent youth and adults to cook easy nutritious meals with their seasonal produce and more.

Run by Zoom at the moment, participants are taught everything from kitchen safety to complete meal prep!

Each of the programs is vital to a strong and healthy community!  We all know how important good food is to nourishing healthy minds and healthy bodies!

Even during COVID, Urban Panty has been able to continue with each of the programs, which is a feat in itself!

Let’s give them all the help we can!

GROW!     FOOD!     EAT!

Written by: Jane Laker

Photo Credit: Stephen Elliott

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Free Tax Service from CWC – It’s Almost Time!

Yolanda Gallo and Winston Chan are considered by many to be local heroes!  Through collaboration between our own Community Wholeness Centre in association with Creating Connections they have partnered with the CRA and are able to provide free tax services through a volunteer service!

Community Wholeness Centre aka CWC Barrie, offers this Tax Service Program all year round and is the only organization that will file up to 10 years of back taxes.

Looking for Funds

Relying heavily on donations and grants they are always in need of funds to continue providing this essential service.

Not being employees or affiliates of the CRA they receive zero funding from the government.  Everything they are able to do comes from their own fundraising. 

It's an Important Program!

Having taxes done ensures that the client is still able to receive various benefits. This is very important to those receiving Child Tax Credit, Social Assistance or monies from other programs.

The Community Wholeness Centre, spearheaded by Yolanda Gallo, has now set up a 100% virtual tax clinic for their clients, thanks to the expertise of Winston Chan.

As tax season fast approaches, Yolanda explains, that because no one is sure when the “shutdown” will be lifted, we have arranged alternate methods of receiving your information. 

She suggests checking out their Facebook site for all the information needed.

We’ve included a short version for you here.

People that may be Eligible

Indigenous Peoples…New Comers to Canada…Refugees…Person with Disabilities..

Seniors…Youth and Students…Homeless Individuals…Housing Insecure Individuals

Financial Situations that are Eligible

Individuals earning less than $35,000.00 and have:

Regular Employment…Pension…Benefit programs (i.e. CPP/OAS/ Disability)…

Social Assistance…RRSP’s…Support Payments…Scholarships/Bursaries/Grants…

Interest earned under $1000.00

Tax Preparation Methods

         *Video Conference


            *Drop off/Pick Up by appointment


For the first time the need for the clinic has really been recognized and appreciated!  As various groups within the city have directed individuals to CWC for tax completion, the need to set up virtual clinics this year became a threat to the program.  Luckily the Red Cross has donated enough funding to ensure that the virtual aspect of the clinics could carry us through this Pandemic.

As Winston Chan says, “When you choose to file your taxes with us, we take into account all the possible benefits and tax credits that are relevant to your situation.  Taxes are more than just a numbers game to us.  It’s about extracting the biggest possible benefit, given a person’s unique circumstances.  We ensure that lack of knowledge is not a barrier to accessing all the benefits and services a person may be entitled to.”

If you are, or know of someone that fits the eligibility requirements please make the call.  You will be so glad that you did!

Written by: Jane Laker

Photo Credit: Steve Elliott

Are you a Barrie based business looking to expand your digital footprint?  Let us know!  We can help get you Uncovered!

City Of Barrie – Community Of Passion

The community that is Barrie has a heart as large as the city itself – and more!


You may remember our article “From the Heat of the Fire” published on January 12.  If not – take a look!

The residents of 68 Mary Street have received an incredible outpouring of love and assistance in the past 10 days.  They’ve asked that we help them in some small way to say a HUGE Thank You!  If by chance someone has been missed please know that we do thank you!  There have been so many people and details to take care of throughout this time!


A number of residents are not able to return home for about 10 weeks!  Through support from the Salvation Army, those without insurance have found interim shelter in a local hotel.  There were some with dietary concerns, and they have been assisted by both the Big Church of 53 Peacock Lane in Barrie and The Well Community Chapel at 81 Dekker St., Everett.  Pastor Gregg Neuman and Chaplain Marcello Fracassi’s congregations have covered the cost for Meals on Wheels through the Red Cross.

Both Pastor Neuman and Chaplain Marcello didn’t stop there however!  With the incredible help of Trevor Patterson, they arranged an army of volunteers to assist with moving the contents of each unit!  Barrie Uncovered photographer, Stephen Elliott even showed up during the move to take pictures!! The same day we were supplied with cases of bottled water donated by Joe’s No Frills at Wellington Plaza…that sure helped keeping everyone hydrated!


Simcoe Moving and Storage of 225 Saunders Road donated a transport trailer to store everything until re-construction is complete.  Another moving company, Rockbrun Movers of 5171 County Road 90 along with assistance from Barrie Families Unite and Reverend Jessie Brandon supplied all the packing supplies including boxes.

To pack and label for a number of people at one time is a feat in itself!  For that we thank Tanya Shields of, Rev. Jessie Brandon of Truthwell Community and the Schwarz family, Jilla, Steve, Isabelle and Eric.  What an incredible job they did!!!

We also had great assistance from Connie Campbell, owner of The Move Planners and Jeremy Hunter of J&J moving for behind the scenes logistics and planning.

Volunteers working with Simcoe Moving & Storage


Most of all we’d like to thank Barrie Families Unite and Nikki Glahn for the incredible reach they have in connecting to the community.  They are truly an asset within our community with the heart, power and drive to facilitate for individuals!! 

Last, but not least, are the residents of 68 Mary Street that weren’t displaced by the fire.  Each and every one of them have assisted in many ways! We’d like to send a special thank you to Superintendant Tim Bridges, residents Dave Sheppard and Christopher Knox. 

Community members driven to serving the community

Well done everyone!  We simply cannot say Thank you enough!!

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