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This Saskatchewan woman is helping fill bellies and hearts with a free grocery store

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Darlene Hartshorn is a mother and grandmother from Warman who is making a difference by helping those who need a hand up.

“I decided we needed to do something, so we opened the Hand Up Cupboard,” she told CTV News.

Hartshorn converted her attached garage into a free grocery store full of donated items. The shelves of her small one room store are filled with food and toiletries. Toilet paper and baby items are always in high demand.

“We had hockey players, cheerleaders, independent stores, schools, donating. It was absolutely amazing,” she said.

Those groups all donated before Christmas, providing about 200 kilograms of food and supplies in that December drive alone.

Her store is open twice a week, and shoppers are invited to stock up once every two weeks.

“When they do come they do have to show proof that they live within my jurisdiction, and then, OK, we’re good to go. I’m not going to judge you. I don’t judge you. Zero judgement whatsoever,” she said.

Hartshorn isn’t surprised by the need in her community, with economic pressures hitting people hard.

“Absolutely, times have changed and especially with the food prices going up and people losing their jobs.”

Local grocery stores are pitching in to ensure essential food items are available.

“I want to make sure people get meat. When you say would you like a steak they say, ‘are you serious?’ They get pork chops, steak, hamburger, ribs, pork loin,” she said.

Darlene Hartshorn started a free grocery store to help feed folks in her community struggling to make ends meet. (Carla Shynkaruk / CTV News)

At the outset, she thought she’d be doing a lot more fundraising. Thanks to all the community support, she doesn’t have to.

“I’m not a crier but it takes everything I have not to cry because the generosity is not what I was counting on when I opened this.”

She’s helped hundreds of families and seniors since starting up 2 years ago and the stories she hears could also bring her to tears, but she wants to help shoppers focus on the positive — at least while they’re in her shop.

To help with this she put up a sign at the entrance saying “no crying in the cupboard.” 

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