purpose-driven problem solving
Karin Alleyne is a remarkable person. As she moves on from her role at WCK to do more incredible things, the story of what she has done for the food programs, all in the space of two years, deserves to be told.
"I don’t see these things as problems, more just, ‘We gotta figure this out.’ If a family wants pizzas, let’s get them pizzas. I love puzzles, so having this very intentional, purpose-driven puzzle to figure out has been the biggest push for me, and such a reward and honour to be part of." — Karin, on establishing the WCK food support for families
Karin was already part of the WCK team when, in the fall of 2020, the organization saw an immediate need to get meals into the hands of families in B.C. who were caring for a child with cancer or a blood disorder. The team had heard from the families how much this would help them, and so a fledgling food program was born. Karin had background experience in retail and inventory, so she knew that she could apply her practical expertise to the challenge at hand:
"It felt like I was meant for it. Everything in my life and work experience had led to me being able to do it. I’m so thankful that Shannon and the team trusted me with this project in September 2020. They were like, 'Okay, can you do this? Can we get food to families around B.C.? We’re working on getting a freezer at B.C. Children’s Hospital–can we get the meals in and delivered?'"
Karin made it happen.
She recalls that the first delivery to families at home happened on November 25, 2020. On Black Friday, no less! "Chanelle (our rep from Purolator) and I, we were like, 'If we can get this done on this day, the hardest day possible, then we’re pretty golden!'" And, together, they got it done.
Now, 20 families every month are receiving boxes full of food, and choosing what works for them. Thousands of meals have been enjoyed by families who would have otherwise had no time, energy, or resources to nourish themselves. Karin relates on a deep level to the importance of showing up in this way for people on the hardest journey of their lives:
"In my culture, food is a big thing. When we gather, there’s food. As soon as someone walks through your door, you’re like, 'You hungry?' And there’s always something to nourish them. You always have something, in the form of food, that you offer as love. I connect with the food programs so, so much."
Karin has developed every aspect, from the back-end systems and processes, to vendor relations with 12 different companies, continual volunteer coordination, and the logistics of managing limited storage and delivery schedules that accommodate different needs.
Thanks to her talents and effort, WCK is now continually feeding families at home as well as providing up to 200 meals each week to the freezer in the parents’ lounge at BC Children’s Hospital. Parents just pull out the meals that work for them and heat them up in a matter of minutes. It was important to Karin that getting the meals would be as simple and burden-free as possible.
While building these systems, Karin's number one concern was to make sure that the food works for families, and communicates the love and care felt for them. Greg Culley recently joined the WCK team to work with Karin on program development, and this is what he observed:
"She’s done so much by herself. As someone who’s looking at all the pieces and putting them together, what she has done is constantly astounding to me. Karin has built this incredible, supportive, caring, and efficient, really wonderful thing. It’s special. I’ve so enjoyed working with her on what the future of food support will be. She’s been so excited about the future and she cares so much about it."
Karin explains why families’ needs shape all aspects of the program:
"The families are the biggest motivator. If they say food is helpful, let’s make sure we have it and get it to them in a way that works. It’s different for every single person, and I truly acknowledge that. Coming from a different culture and background, I know it’s different for each family. Whether it’s the delivery time, or their kids not being familiar with mac and cheese…whatever it is, let’s figure it out and get them the thing that works. They’re saying it will be helpful, and they deserve the help."
This personal touch extends to vendor relations. She has become friends with WCK's food partners and enjoys getting to know them:
“We’re people, you know? We’re people. I get to share what we’re up to, they get to share what they’re up to, and it just keeps our relationship going as people. I get to understand their workflow and challenges in their departments. I get to know things that are important to them and to their organizations.”
Personal connection drives everything Karin does. Her relationships with the volunteers are just as remarkable. She recognizes their expertise and energy, and honours that very intentionally:
"They’re awesome people that come in and care. They see the big picture of starting here with eight freezers in an office space, but they can see how this can scale and grow, and they want it to. That’s why they devote their time and energy to keep it going now. They’re always asking what else they can help with. I would never want that spirit to change. Their input matters to me. I’m not the one packing and driving the food out. They are, so I want them to tell me what works, what doesn’t, what we need."
As well as Karin’s logistical super-skills and relational approach, she has brought a fierce can-do energy to the work that makes everything seem possible. Having just heard that extra space might be opened up in the office for more freezers, Karin says, "I immediately texted Joe the electrician to ask if he can come next week to look at the outlets. I’m like, 'Come! Come! Let’s get these freezers in.' They’re going to be such a game changer when it comes to storing meals on hand. Let’s do this! Let’s go!"
As we round up Karin’s WCK story, the last question to her is what her favourite part of the job has been. And her answer perfectly sums up her care, efficiency, and tender heart that echoes through everything she has built:
"To know that a family of ours has enjoyed a meal. Hearing 'My kid loved the pizza!' That’s my favourite thing to hear. Then I know they’ve eaten, and I know it’s helped."
Something, in the form of food, that she has offered as love.
Ready to be part of the WCK community? Check out our volunteer listings and reach out to Volunteer Coordinator Kelsey Merritt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1 (604) 394-2029 ext. 2.