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Foodbank receives 1,500 masks via Cardinal-China connection

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These volunteers are wearing masks which were donated to the South Grenville Food Bank through a local connection with the business community of southern China. JOURNAL PHOTO/BURCHELL

CARDINAL - A shipment of 1,500 medical-office-grade, one-time-use masks was donated to South Grenville Food Bank May 27. Adam Turnbull and Joe Barnhardt, both long-time residents of the village, presented the boxes of masks to Executive Director Bonnie Pidgeon and Volunteer Lead Trudy Watson at the Cardinal office.

Watson says she and her volunteers may package their share in groups of a dozen to hand out to clients.

"That's just one option; we will have to look at the numbers," says Watson. "Many of our clients don't have the financial means to buy masks so we were thrilled when Adam and Joe came to us."

Watson will get 500 masks with the rest being divided between the Prescott and Spencerville branches. She says the Cardinal site has approximately 100 clients each month, some of them families.

The masks were obtained through Turnbull's connection to Cancham PRD, a Chinese-based group of business owners. Made up of a combination of Canadian and Chinese businesses working together in Guangzhou on the southern tip of China, it is about an hour away from Hong Kong. Turnbull lived and worked in China for the past 16 years and only returned to Canada very early in 2020.

He saw what was developing here and wanted to do something for the community he grew up in. He says a mask factory was literally "in our back yard" referring to his business site in China. Barnhardt was a friend from early school days in Cardinal who now owns a construction company, so Turnbull reached out and the two came up with a plan to get the masks to Canada.

While Joe looked at the logistics of moving the items here, Adam contacted the Canadian Consulate General telling him what the pair wanted to do. He spoke to the producer in China and had donators on board, so all that remained was getting them here.

"At first, the logistics looked difficult when we were looking at commercial flights", says Turnbull. But then they turned to international carrier DHL and had them sent here through them. His brother Robert also owns a couple of businesses in China and he was part of that connection. With all the partners working together, the masks arrived in Canada May 12 and have been held in isolation since then.

The Turnbull brothers have a background in local business - their parents ran Al's Butcher Shop 20 years ago - and Adam had a unique chance to go to China as a young man. There he started a business network with vendors from both countries and was the first President of the South China Chamber of Commerce.

At the presentation last Wednesday, Executive Director Pidgeon told the two friends she was "thrilled with their generosity of spirit," and that she is proud to know them. The masks destined for Prescott and Spencerville will be handed out minus a few for the transport drivers at Kriska. Pidgeon and Watson wanted to do something for the drivers who are keeping food deliveries on the road.

Turnbull and Barnhardt felt that was a great idea; they say their idea was to help as many of their fellow Canadians as possible.

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