In early April we saw ICG 669’s former treasurer, Luke Campbell, take swift leadership in a DTES meal delivery initiative at the peak of COVID-19. His actions were quickly aided with support from Teamsters Local Union 155, IATSE and DGC members, and every corner of B.C’s motion picture industry.
In concert with the non-profit, Potluck Café Society, Campbell, Teamsters and IATSE members work to supply Downtown Eastside single residential buildings. Luke and his team’s unbelievable determinism and steadfast commitment prove that it takes a village, and the motion picture ecosystem can work together to help when needed.
We spoke to Luke Campbell about the work he’s done to take this initiative off the ground, and his calls for the community to help as funding for the meals on the street have run out effectively today, and the community needs your help. You can donate directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here to help this initiative successfully distribute 102,000 meals by the end of the month.
We love seeing the unbelievable initiatives you are taking recently to deliver meals to the Downtown Eastside. Could you tell us a little bit about getting the initiative started?
I have few friends in Europe that were sharing how bad things were getting so I felt I was a little more prepared mentally that we needed to get into action fast, when our industry closed down on the Friday. I had noticed many of my favourite restaurants were struggling and closing and wondered if we could collaborate to have meals paid for via donation that would help the local restaurants and in turn help feed those in need. On a Monday morning I started by reaching out to the community and my contact at the GRVD Food Bank, Nicole Campbell, and heard back on March 24th. She put me in contact with six other groups in the community, I quickly realized that the need would be greater than what I could easily organize through aggregating meals from restaurants and with 3000 of the 5000 quickly closing, I also worried about the supply chain failing. So I shifted gears, I contacted Lorrie Ward from Teamsters and said there may be a demand for their members in the catering department and their trucks to provide meals, I just put a bug in his ear to get the wheels moving. He informed that membership in all the unions were tasking the offices pretty heavy as all were trying to get on EI, but ultimately the following Monday things should be at hand.
In talking with former board member Crystal Braunwarth Publicity Member at Large who is now the assistant business agent at Local 891, she suggested that we maybe should reach out to Meals on Wheels for logistic advice. I spoke with their executive director to gain some insight, soon after we realized the permanent catering kitchens that were idle just made more sense to use, but she shared that as more than half of her 600 clients had meals delivered by drivers that happened to be seniors and no longer felt comfortable doing the deliveries they had to cut their program down in half. I reached out to my social network and sent volunteers their way including two cinematographers Phil Lanyon and Ian Kerr.
I then reached out to other labour organizations inquiring who was in charge of COVID relief requests with 891, 669, the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress), the BC Fed, and a new group that I was not aware of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. The VDLC and other food bank networking brought me to join a COVID-19 meals program that was being chaired by Steve Johnston, the Executive Director of Community Impact Real Estate Society a social enterprise whom the City of Vancouver sits on their board. They were partnering with Naved Noorani, Executive Director of Potluck Catering Society who wanted to provide meals to those in need too.
Initially from this Friday meeting the request was for a one-tonne truck to pick up 1000 meals on Saturday and Sundays with Mondays to Fridays being delivered by Union Gospel Missions. Goodly, the largest catering partner happened to be close to my office so I jumped on driving those meals myself.
I then attended a logistic meeting while a doctor tended to my “annual” physical and quickly out of this meeting it was asked if we could set up a logistics distribution centre and staff it with six people per day, to which I said absolutely. Shortly after an additional request to provide four delivery vans with drivers 7 days a week was put in. I quickly reached back out to Lorrie at Teamsters 155 and asked for help with an industry special on one truck and four vans, he partnered us up with Miranda Luyten at Discount Cars, and then he proceeded to find a crew of four drivers including a captain.
I reached out to Rhonda Taylor 2nd AD / UPN DGC who we had talked on set months earlier about our skills being transferable for disaster recovery and asked if she could come on board and help run the operation with scheduling the volunteers I was rostering. I was having a hard time getting an onsite production coordinator to come on board, so I turned to my friend Abigale Flint from the commercial world with the “just get it done” attitude.
I then reached out over the weekend and the following Monday morning to three different locations providers for table, chairs, tents, trash bins, cones, and fans to stock the distribution centre. All were supportive but Jason Cox with Whites LES was able to accommodate us and provided everything we need. I had my sole employee who was in travel quarantine reach out to Panavision to borrow a pallet jack and ramp for my weekend deliveries, and they were happy to accommodate.
On Tuesday, March 31st I started moving vans, and then the Teamsters business agent Shawn and another volunteer came to help, I picked up the location supplies and we got the distribution centre ready with the help of Darcy from Potluck. Then we waited for the city to issue the purchase order for the food. Two days came and went and then finally on Thursday morning in early April, the meals started flowing.
Who are your partners, volunteers and supporters that help you carry this out?
Darcy Green, Potluck Café Society Operations Manager
Rhonda Taylor, Directors Guild of Canada BC Team Leader
Abigale Flint, Abigale Flint Commercials, Scheduling and Team Leader
Darla Chibi, Milita Ouellette, Mike Farley, Brandon Tutt Lorrie Ward, Shawn Henter, Teamsters 155
ICG 669 members
DGC and members
IATSE 891 members
Rey Torres, Union Gospel Mission
Navid, Ian, Prashant, Cornelious, Potluck Catering Society
Aart Shuurman Hess and team, Goodly Food
Adriane King and team, HAVE Cafe
and B.C’s commercial film community
How many volunteers were able to help you with this?
We have a total of 29 Volunteers, we usually crew 5-6 for the lunch service and a team of 2-3 for the street dinner service. As people’s commitments have changed, or they have moved to be with family, we’ve been training one team member a week to replace outgoing volunteers.
How many meals have you delivered so far?
Approximately 85,575 meals as of May 20th.
What have been some memorable moments working on this initiative?
My weekend pickups from Aart and his team at Goodly, hand-passing the meals at our centre thinking that more than 55,000 meals have personally gone through my hands (I’ve taken four days off). I used to provide a few meals directly on Main Street, it was very heartfelt, I came to know a few members of the community by name. Now that I’ve hired more industry friends to help get my business ready to come back, and we’ve merged our “family units” it’s too high a risk. I’m very thankful for the month that I was able to do this, it was extremely humbling to call strangers sir, or ma’am, offering them a warm meal, and see the joy and true gratitude in their eyes. I’ve gotten so much more from this effort than I could have possibly known, and honestly, it’s going to be very difficult for me to go back to our industry. This has been an awakening for me, I had planned to do more community service and disaster relief in five or so more years when I felt I would slow down in our industry and look for a change, but now I’m going to need to find a way to balance this most important and rewarding work with work within our industry.
Finally, the most important for our film community has been offering the opportunity for others to be of service, to help out, and try to do something meaningful during such strange times, as well as letting them connect with other film members between the rush of the meals.
What would you like everyone to know about this initiative? Are there ways anyone can help?
There are some really caring people in the DTES community, members living on the street, members who were on the street, and those helping to support them, even some of the first responders. You get back so much more than you put in when you help people in your community. Help us deliver meals to the end of the month by donating directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here.