Nova Scotia

Cape Breton pagans launch new programs to combat food insecurity

A small pagan society in North Sydney that helps feed people in need is expanding its efforts with a new location for free meals and a community garden.

Circle of the Raven Society is expanding its free meal program to Glace Bay and is planning a community garden

Candice Hannah, a founding member of the Circle of the Raven Society, shows off the group's food pantry with Joe Townsend. (Christian Roach / CBC)

A small pagan society in North Sydney, N.S., is expanding community outreach and food insecurity programs with a new location for free meals and the addition of a community garden.

The Circle of the Raven Society is a non-profit organization started by Candice Hannah and her daughter, Briana Berardinelli, almost two years ago. They formed the group after seeing how many people in the community needed help.

The pair started out in Millville, N.S., giving away a free meal to anyone who needed one. Originally, the pair paid out of pocket for all the food but they soon began to sell small items from a trailer in their yard to help with the cost.

"We've moved from a tiny little trailer into a giant Addams Family building now where we're currently located in North Sydney," said Berardinelli, adding that the hard work has always been worth it.

"Any personal stories that we've heard just keeps pushing us to continue doing this, because we're seeing just how many people that we can help."

The group has grown and now gives away about 100 free meals on the last Sunday of every month from their location on Commercial Street. They also sell crafts and books and run a free clothes market.

The society offers free clothing in its store on Commercial Street in North Sydney. (Christian Roach / CBC)

Expanding to Glace Bay

In the short term they hope to feed more people by expanding to Glace Bay.

Member Mary Dillon will be giving away 30 free meals from her home in Glace Bay starting March 27, while other members continue to offer free meals in North Sydney.

Dillon said she loves being a part of the group and wants it to grow so they can help more people.

"We'd love to get as much places as possible for people to have food, for people to come, get readings, be able to connect with people who understand them, that aren't going to look down on them," she said.

Briana Berardinelli is a founder of the Circle of the Raven Society. (Christian Roach / CBC)

New community garden coming

Although the society has only six official members, the Facebook page has over 700 followers. The group has made community connections with the Ally Centre, NSCC and Cape Breton University to spread the word about the free meals.

They've also partnered with other community groups like Community Cares to install a red food pantry behind their building — the home of the new community garden that's expected to be ready this summer.

"We want to be able to fill it up with an array of fruits and vegetables or herbs, anything that can really go a long way for people who need it and it will be easily accessible."

Berardinelli said she still can't explain the feeling she gets helping others.

"It just fills my heart just seeing how many people that we've helped, even just in this amount of time in the last two years," said Berardinelli.

"I can only imagine just how much more we're going to grow and how many more people will be able to help."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Roach is a reporter based in Cape Breton. He's interested in everything about the island.

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