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Calgary church group brings free-access fridge to Bridgeland

Bridgeland has been blessed by a street fridge, designed to help the hungry and bring positivity to the community.

Sheryl Sambrano, Trach Luong, and other members of a singles group at the Rocky Mountain Church of Christ were inspired by a successful New York initiative and decided to bring it to Calgary.

The “friendly fridges” popped up in the Bronx in New York, which are brightly colored and stocked with food to feed the community. Community members are free to take from or add to the fridges as they go.

With this idea in mind, the group got together to figure out their plan of action. Within a few weeks, a friend had donated an old fridge to the project.

Luong is a property manager at Bridgeland Manor, and offered to place the fridge in the parking lot of his building – located on 1 Avenue NE near Edmonton Trail.

The YYC Street Fridge is conveniently placed next to a dumpster for easy waste disposal.

“It kind of seemed like everything just aligned itself,” said Sambrano.

“There’s a lot of negativity happening in the world right now, and it just seems like a nice initiative to just help the community.”

Precautions have been taken to make the fridge as safe as possible. While it is being powered by Luong’s building, community members from around Bridgeland have volunteered to help keep the fridge properly sanitized.

The fridge is equipped with hand sanitizer for users, which Sambrano’s employer, AGAT Laboratories, have offered to supply.

Fridge is stocked safely

As for food, the fridge is stocked as often as possible with items such as water bottles, pre-packaged snacks and homemade sandwiches (prepared and packaged safely).  Clean fruits and vegetables, juice boxes, chips and pop have also been stocked inside.

The fridge was stocked for the first time on July 25, and the group is working with community members to keep filling its shelves.

“There’s a lot of people who are in need in that area, and they can easily access the fridge,” said Sambrano.

While community response has been primarily positive, there are some worries arising.

Information about the project was posted in a Bridgeland/Riverside community group, where commenters expressed opinions on the fridge.

One comment was concerned about the fridge and sanitization, as well as the safety of the food left inside. Since perishable items have been provided, there’s worry that items could be left to rot. 

However, that issue has been considered by Sambrano and her team.

The fridge is monitored by tenants of Luong’s building and the building across the street, both for the safety of the fridge, and to keep track of when it needs to be cleaned or refilled.

Since it is in such a visible location, the Street Fridge rarely stays stocked like this for long. Often, it is empty a day or two after being filled.

Perishable items aren’t left too long, and the fridge is stocked with primarily pre-packaged food. Items being handled directly are done so with gloves and masks to assure maximum safety. 

Two tenants of the nearby buildings have volunteered to be in charge of sanitization, with wipes provided by Luong.

“We are learning the best we can, walking with God,” he said.

Comment online worries about local crime

Some comments worried about the location, with one arguing the logistics and its potential to attract crime and criminal behaviour.

“There are food banks and shelters available for people in need,” said Derek Chapman on Facebook.

“If [thieves] are roaming Bridgeland at 2 a.m. to break into places, [they] might get hungry and this would be a good spot to get free food.”

Chapman went on to provide information for the Calgary Food Bank.

In response to this, Sambrano turned to her faith.

“Obviously we want to have faith that people will use it for good,” she said.

“We’re just putting our trust in God that He will bless the fridge.”

Though its left largely unattended Sambrano, Luong, and their team have precautions in place. Community members keep an eye on the state of the fridge and make sure it isn’t stolen or damaged. There’s even schedule to keep the fridge filled.

The fridge seems to be flourishing with a flood of community support.

“It’s crazy how much people have been using this fridge,” said Sambrano.

Whenever the fridge is filled, the contents are usually gone by the morning. Perishable items and water bottles are often the first to go, and nothing lasts for more than a few days. 

To help stock the fridge or otherwise contribute you can contact the group via email at come.jesus.amen@gmail.com, or on Instagram at YYCStreetFridge.