The results are in and they are fantastic!
Volunteers from nine local churches rallied together on February 20th at 12 different supermarkets to collect a combined total of 100,395 lbs of potatoes for the House of Friendship’s Annual Potato Blitz! 17,500 lbs of the potatoes were donated directly, while the other 82,895 lbs comes from the $8,289.47 in cash donations that will be used to buy potatoes year-round at a fixed low-rate.
Calvary United, Calvin Presbyterian, Christ Lutheran, Doon Presbyterian, Kitchener East Presbyterian, Knox Waterloo, Parkminster United, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, and St. Louis Roman Catholic Church volunteers all spent their Saturday morning and afternoon at the entrances and exits of Food Basics Fairway Road, Waterloo Town Square’s Valu-Mart, Central Fresh Market, and various Sobeys, and Zehrs stores across KW.
Linda, Nicki, "Spuddy", Ed Ruppe, "Sweets" and John Neufeld. Missing: Chantelle
Some volunteers, like Ed Ruppe, his daughter, and his two granddaughters, made it a full day, family affair! Starting at 9:30 a.m, they stopped only for lunch, and were still going strong in their burlap sack dresses when “Spuddy” and “Sweet” came to visit them at Food Basics just before 3:00 p.m!
Elna Robertson spent the day at Sobeys Bridgeport with Parkminster United and told me in good humour, “Last year was my first year, and I didn’t think to have anyone around to cover a break or lunch. By two o’clock I was about ready to pass out.” Needless to say, she brought her husband of 51 years, Les, with her this time around, and planned for additional volunteers to arrive in intervals throughout the day. Other church groups, such as Calvin Presbyterian and St. Andrews Presbyterian, organized volunteer shifts from 9 a.m – 12p.m and 12 p.m – 3 p.m.
Elna and Les Robertson in their homemade Potato Blitz Tags
A small band of us led by “Spuddy” and “Sweet” were able to go around and see the volunteers hard at work at their respective locations. John Neufeld, Christine Rier, her son Colin, Michael Hackbusch, and myself, visited all but 1 of the 12 supermarkets, unfortunately arriving at Zehrs Pioneer Mall only minutes after the Doon Presbyterian volunteers had wrapped up for the day. Aside from this set back, we found those we visited in high spirits and unique get-ups. From green and white striped top hats, to handmade burlap vests (thank you Kingsdale Community Centre), to green plastic hats, and flowing burlap gowns, the Supermarket Blitzers made their mark and had many stories and smiles to share with us!
Samantha and Melanie at Zehrs Conestoga
We met veterans like Samantha- a grade eight student with three years experience and a fool-proof system: approach shoppers with potato bag already in hand, give a big smile and description of the cause, then place the potatoes into the obliging person’s shopping cart. Ta da, another donation secured!
How could anyone say no?
We also met Bob Schmidt and his team who were raking in the cash donations at the Northfield & Fisher-Hallman Sobeys, Ab Martin and company at Zehrs Glenridge, Barb “Captain” Chippier taking part in her 5th Blitz at Zehrs Stanley Park, and House of Friendship staff member extraordinaire, Shelley Holmes, with five other Knox Presbyterian volunteers in Valu-mart!
John Lambert as King Spud, and Doreen West peeking out from between the mascots.
Then there was King Spud himself, John Lambert, one of the Supermarket Blitz’s key coordinators, who has been volunteering, and wearing his royal attire, for the past 14 years. Customers of the Beechwood Zehrs were greeted with his tried and true: “Buy a bag of potatoes and we’ll gladly take them off your hands”.
So many volunteers helped at each location, and every one of them did a great job, at a hard job! Dave, from Calvin Presbyterian, confided in me that sometimes it’s tough asking strangers for cash donations or bags of potatoes: “Some people just walk by without even looking at you, you’re just another solicitor in their eyes and it’s hard to not take that personally.”
But, for every one person with their head down and eyes averted, there were half a dozen people willing to listen and/or donate whatever they could. In the end, volunteers would agree that the day was well worth it and a pleasure to be part of.
2,000lbs of potatoes collected before noon at Zehrs Beechwood
Steinmann Mennonite Church provided pick-up trucks and drivers to transport the 17, 500 lbs of potatoes to Steckle Heritage Homestead where they are now kindly being stored in an underground cellar.
Volunteer Driver, "Sweet" and Valerie Green, the Executive Director of Steckle Heritage Homestead
Great thanks goes out to Glenn Stewart for contacting and organizing with the churches and supermarket locations, John Lambert for also coordinating the event, Zehrs Markets, Sobeys, Valu-Mart, Food Basics, and Central Fresh Market and all the managers for allowing the temporary take over of their stores, Steinmann Mennonite for transporting the spuds, Steckle Heritage Homestead for providing storage space, the shoppers who donated at supermarkets across the region, and of course, thank you to all of the dedicated church volunteers who brought home the gold!
GO, SUPERMARKET BLITZERS, GO!