Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)

Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)

Two-week stint at Goldstream Food Bank turns into 35 years of volunteer service

Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year

Gayle Ireland’s journey of 35 years volunteering on the West Shore began with two weeks filling in at the Goldstream Food Bank.

She stepped in when a fellow congregation member of the United Church went to Portugal for two weeks. When the church friend broke her ankle, Ireland kept filling in. That was in 1986.

Fast forward to today and Ireland, now president of the food bank, has made her mark on the West Shore as a tireless volunteer, well known and well-loved throughout the community. She oversees a team of more than 50 volunteer staff, serving more than 600 clients at the food bank and she doesn’t take a dime for her efforts.

Still, she’s humble to a fault, and quick to point out the contributions of others.

“I’m taking this [award] for the whole team,” said Ireland. “I’ve always said, it’s not just one person in that food bank that makes it work. Everybody makes it. They’re all like spokes in a wheel. Without one spoke, the whole wheel is weak.

“It’s an amazing, wonderful group of volunteers in there. I’m so proud of them. I couldn’t do it without them. The food bank wouldn’t exist without them. The food bank is the volunteers.”

When Ireland first arrived on the West Shore from Vancouver, she didn’t know a lot about communities in need. Through her work at the food bank, that quickly changed.

She was shocked to discover that people were living in poverty in hidden places around the city: in abandoned vehicles or buildings, wherever they could.

READ MORE: Local Heroes shine on the West Shore

“I really saw the underlying need in the communities that I wasn’t aware of,” she said. “It just opened my eyes to people who really really needed help.”

The Goldstream Food Bank itself was supposed to be a temporary measure. It opened in 1983 to support people in the area who were laid off during the recession. The need for its services never stopped, though, and the list of clients continues to grow.

“Here we are, how many years later … and we’re helping more clients than ever. I wish there wasn’t a need for a food bank, but I think there always will be,” Ireland said.

Poverty looks different these days, she added. The food bank serves many people who are working or receiving government assistance, but are just barely keeping it together.

“I think the demographic now is a lot more elderly, more clients on disability, and more working-challenged, if that’s the right word for it,” Ireland said. “It just takes a dental bill, a vet bill, transmission gone on your car, something … and what do you do?”

After 35 years of volunteering, she’s close with many clients in the community. She said the most challenging part of her work is when they find out a client or a fellow volunteer has passed away. But there are bright lights, too: especially when people who have struggled with difficult times come through the other side.

“We’ve had some real success stories over the years. Somebody stopped me in front of Fairway Market a couple of years ago. She’d been a single mom … she was just saying, ‘Oh Gayle, I’m just doing so great now, I want to thank you guys for helping.’

“It’s a heartwarming feeling. It’s satisfying to see the tears of relief on their face, the smiles, the little kids. It’s just wonderful,” Ireland said.

She’s endlessly grateful for the support she’s received from the West Shore community over the years. The food bank has operated rent free out of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 basement, for which she’s grateful to Legion president Norm Scott.

Ireland’s list of thank-yous to the community is long. From the local Guides and Scouts programs, to fundraising drives at Belmont and Royal Bay Secondary schools, to local churches and grocery stores, the support of the community has carried the non-profit organization through many decades of helping others in need.

“I think as long as we continue to get the support from everyone in the general public, and we run the food bank the way we are, we’ll be able to manage, and we’ll be able to continue helping many, many people in the future,” she said.

As for her personal hopes for the future?

“I hope that one day I’ll retire,” Ireland said with a laugh. “That’s not going to be for a while.”

Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year.

-Emily Vance/Contributor

Nominations for the 2022 Local Hero Awards West Shore open on Feb. 25. To learn more, go to

READ MORE: 2021 Local Hero Awards West Shore


Do you have a story tip? Email:

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Local Hero Awards

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The District of North Saanich has issued a notice to remove this floating structure from the waters off Lillan Hoffar Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Boat owner ordered to vacate waters off North Saanich park

Couple have been living in floating structure off Lillian Hoffar Park for a number of years

Esquimalt High School is one of six Greater Victoria schools that reported a COVID-19 exposure over the weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Six new Greater Victoria school exposures reported over weekend

Steady rise in school exposures since return from spring break

Passengers in rows four to 10 onboard WestJet flight 449 from Calgary to Victoria April 6 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Flight from Calgary to Victoria added to COVID-19 exposure list

Passengers onboard WestJet flight 449 April 6 affected

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
Victoria man living a full, active life after double lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Victoria Police’s Explosive Disposal Unit came to Oak Bay April 10 to destroy a potentially dangrous explosive device that washed up on shore. (Oak Bay RCMP photo)
Washed-up explosive device destroyed by VicPD bomb squad

An Oak Bay resident called in the potentially dangerous debris

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read