Althea Guiboche’s van has been vandalized and sprayed with graffiti.
The province’s health department also shut her down for not having food-handling training or using a commercial kitchen.And then, at times, baking supplies dwindled and gas money ran out.
'We need to look for that selfless side within ourselves' - Althea Guiboche
It hasn’t been easy but one year later, Winnipeg’s ‘Bannock Lady’ is still giving away free bannock and soup to the city’s homeless every week.
“I’m happy. I made it one year in spite of all the problems, in spite of all the obstacles, in spite of the province and in spite of everything in my life,” said the Ojibway and Cree mother of seven who lives in Winnipeg's North End.
On Thursday Jan. 30, Guiboche celebrates the anniversary of ‘Got Bannock’ with a free bannock and soup party in the parking lot at Neechi Commons.
She expects about 250 people at the event, which starts at 1 p.m. and will feature live music and a free clothing giveaway.
Inspired by Idle No More rally
While marking the milestone is important, Guiboche called on more people to do what they can, whatever way they can, to help the less fortunate.
“We need to have more compassion and more understanding,” the 39-year-old said. “We need to look for that selfless side within ourselves.”
The idea, or at least the seed, was planted when Guiboche noticed how often street folks approached her for money and help.
Guiboche, who lives on social assistance herself and lives “paycheque to paycheque,” was inspired to start her one-woman charity after attending an Idle No More rally in January 2013. She went home that night and wrote a poem that captured the intensity of her feelings.
As i inhaled the sage from the burning smudge,
the beat of the drum pounded in my veins,
the voices of my people a comforting murmur,
i squinted and could almost imagine,
that the street lights beyond,
were fires burning throughout a village.
The rally had fundamentally changed Guiboche's life, outlook and purpose.
The next day, she made 19 servings of chili and bannock, loaded them in her 2002 Dodge Caravan and headed to Dufferin Avenue and Main Street.
It was -50˚C with the windchill that day.
Since then, Guiboche estimates she’s delivered more than 10,000 servings of bannock, soup or chili, vegetables and fruit.
Plans to keep 'Got Bannock' in motion
She has no plans to stop. She relies on donations to pay for the food and gas money to keep her one-woman charity on the road every week.
And while keeping 'Got Bannock' in motion every week is her personal mission, other people need to find out what inspires them to do their part for those in need.
She hopes her story and the 'Got Bannock' initiative moves others to action. "Everyone, whatever their circumstance, can find a way to reach out to those in need," she said.
And invoking the 'it takes a village to raise a child' sensibility, Guiboche believes that same sentiment should be extended to all people in need.
Race, religion and our differences don't matter. It's about the 'human race'," she said.
"I am here for sustenance and understanding. I don't judge. I want to talk to people and give them love."
Neechi Commons is located at 865 Main Street.