One Man’s Vision is Transforming a Community

by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, Community

“When a person experiences food insecurity and does not have access to adequate, culturally-appropriate and nutritious food, then ‘survival’ becomes their primary focus, leaving limited energy or time to realize other goals such as education or employment.”

These are words from the 2018 Food Security Action Plan, and adequately describe a growing portion of the population in New Westminster, where 16 per cent of its citizens live in poverty – a growing number of them are children, seniors and single parent families. But because of the generosity of donors, and one man’s vision, things are beginning to change.

When Corneliu Sandru took the role of Food Distribution and Volunteer Coordinator he had a vision: use the power of volunteerism to convert a stale food bank program into a robust feeding centre that could provide for hundreds – not dozens. And he didn’t stop there. He dreamed of people shopping with dignity and having a choice – he envisioned people leaving the New West Citadel with wholesome, healthy foods like dairy products, meats, cheeses, and fresh produce. With his vision mapped out, a personal determination and the generous gifts from donors like you, Corneliu set out to transform the program.

He began by building relationships with local producers and vendors and in no time at all had increased the amount of product coming into the program by 60 per cent. He then turned his attention to building a system that would accommodate up to 400 people per week, and let them ‘shop’ for food with dignity versus receiving ‘handouts’ in a food line. A former volunteer himself, Corneliu knew where to start.

He began to recruit volunteers from the program itself. He gave them specific jobs, empowered them to take ownership of the program – he even started an in-house daycare in the church so people could volunteer, while their children were taken care of. He brought in people who once used the service themselves and who were excited about the change. Today, Corneliu has a waitlist of volunteers who sign up early, just to get a shift … and that is only the beginning.

What he has done is given people hope, and he’s done that by treating them with dignity and respect.

Ask anyone who come to the Citadel these days and they will tell you that they feel welcomed, they feel blessed and they feel like the belong. Those living in the community and who stop by the Citadel are treated with dignity and given hope … they feel like they are given a hand up and not a hand out. His new system means that they no longer have to wait in a long line for a few handouts, instead they register for the program in advance, are given a set time to arrive, and leave the Citadel with bags filled with $100-$150 worth of fresh groceries, three times a week.  And no one leaves without being taken care of.

Corneliu makes sure everyone leaves with enough food, even if they haven’t registered, he gets them in line, “we take care of everybody, we don’t let anyone leave this place hungry.”


“I appreciate all the support that allows (the Army) to give Hope to people. It is Hope that empowers us to reach our goals for a better education, employment, and independence.”


Essential programs like this do not happen without you and your support, together we are giving hope today … and every day. You can find out more about The Salvation Army and support programs like this by donating at