Author Archive

The Gift of Hope on Day 11

December 20, 2012

12 Days

If you have young children (or grandchildren) this time of year can be particularly joyful.  It’s an opportunity to start and pass along family traditions, spend time together and have some fun in the snow.  It is a time when a lot of workplaces wind down (unless you work retail of course) and, as the last ten days have shown, it is a time when a lot of people make an extra effort to help others and contribute to a better community.  What is there not to like about December?

Well, for many people on the receiving end of good will and charity, or those who are largely invisible in our community, like the homeless and those who are struggling with addiction, December is one of the worst times of year. December 25th in particular looms large as a reminder of broken families and relationships.

“We spend a lot of time getting people ready for Christmas,” Rick, a staff person in House of Friendship’s men’s addiction program told a group of us recently. “The guys get themselves mentally prepared for the loneliness and the bad memories and we make ourselves available over the holidays to support them.  But, in the new year, is when it hits the hardest.” This is a common experience for the staff in all of our addiction programs for men and women.

What can an individual do to build a sense of hope in people who are feeling like recovery might not be possible and that they may never be able to heal the damage that has shaken their families apart?

(more…)

There is no place like home on day 3 of 12 Days

December 12, 2012

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Home is not a long word.  Only four letters. But for being such a short word, it has a lot of weight.  It is a big deal.  What can you do if you don’t have a home?  Today, Allison, the program coordinator of Eby Village shared Andrea’s story with me:

“After moving from shelter to shelter, I was so happy when I received the news that I was accepted at Eby village. For the first time in my life, I had my own private space and I finally had my own kitchen where I could cook my own meals.

 I shared my new home with other people who were in similar circumstance as me, such as being on social assistance, and coming from homelessness.  I have met people with different personalities and each person has brought something unique to my life.  I have learned things I never would have thought from people in the building such as gardening, cooking, and arts and crafts. I’ve stayed close with the people I’ve befriended throughout my 15 years of living at Eby Village and I have grown as an individual.

Having my own private space has brought me security, and my confidence has grown by participating in community activities. I hope everyone can have a home like Eby Village because it gives people autonomy, a feeling of self worth, and increases self esteem. Your own home gives you a place to invite your friends and family to that you feel proud of, and you don’t have the influence of alcohol and drugs so you can live the way you want to and work on becoming the best person you can be. “

Looking the story over, Andrea said “People aren’t going to believe that someone from Eby Village wrote this!  Most people think we can’t even read and write.”           

The message is this story is simple – if you give someone a home, they have the opportunity to thrive. But the reality in our region and across Canada is not everyone has access to a safe, affordable, and acceptable home, and as Andrea points out, barriers and stereotypes still remain.  In a survey  done by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA), there are  over 156, 358 Ontario households waiting for affordable housing like that offered in Eby Village, and more than 3,000 people waiting for housing in the region of Waterloo alone – year after year, this list continues to grow. The wait time for families, singles and seniors is on average 2-3 years which indicates the need for more affordable housing options, particularly for those in deep need. (more…)

The Gift of Food

December 11, 2012

Worth repeating:  In keeping with Day 2 of 12DaysForGood, here is our presentation to Regional Council regarding the issue of Discretionary Benefits. (more…)

The Power of 12

December 10, 2012
Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Last Friday, volunteers in north Waterloo were busy.  They came together, many of them only seeing each other at this time of year, and got to business assembling boxes of food for people they will never meet.  Christmas Hampers officially got into gear.

Inspired by these volunteers and the hundreds who will follow them each day until the 25th, House of Friendship invites YOU to get involved in our community to the power of 12.

Welcome to 12 Days.

The idea is simple: do something, anything, in the next twelve days to help someone else.  These can be 12 big things, 12 little things or even just one thing. We`re not asking you to join in on what House of Friendship is doing (although you are very welcome to) we simply want to share the enthusiasm and drive that we see around us and encourage others to make a positive change.

This year, since it is a traditional time of gift giving, we are organizing our own efforts around 12 different “gifts”:  the gift of Justice and Equality, Food, Home, Community, Health, Joy, Knowledge, Friendship, Warmth, Diversity, Hope, and finally, Celebrating the Good!

Each day we will share some tips, suggestions, stories and inspiration that you can use to share that gift with our community.

Follow #12daysforgood on twitter, on Facebook and come back here for daily updates.

Day 1: How do you wrap the Gift of Justice?

In my University days, I found myself sitting with some co-workers for lunch, enjoying the nice summer weather.  We were doing door-to-door sales at the time and the spirit of the work place was making money and self reliance.  You were responsible for your success or failure.  Every day, before hitting the streets, it was drilled into us: keep pushing, stay confident, work hard and you will do it.

As we dug into our lunches, the conversation turned to a homeless man we had interacted with earlier before starting work. One of my co-workers observed “If I was on the street, I would never stop, I would clean myself up, get a job and get off the street in a few days.”

If only life was that simple. (more…)

Our volunteers go the distance

October 15, 2012

One of the single most rewarding parts of being at the House of Friendship is working beside the hundreds of amazing volunteers who come to help us and others each and every day of the year.  At the beginning of September we took a moment to relax and celebrate their achievements in style thanks to Knox Presbyterian Church who opened their space to us and let us set up some BBQ’s to grill some tasty food.

We couldn’t have done it without Boston Pizza, Canadian Tire, The Cake Box, Future Shop, Galaxy Cinemas, Max’s Golf, the Perimeter Institute, Princess Cafe, Starbucks, The Museum, Walmart, Waterloo Region Museum, Whole-lota Gelata, and CIBC who all generously gave their own thanks for the work our volunteers do by donating raffle prizes. (more…)

You too, can retire by age 90!

June 7, 2012

Forget retiring by age 55, some people are looking to retire (in some cases for a second time) from their current line of work by age 90.  Can they do it?

I hope so!

How are they going to do it?  By adopting a time honoured way of working together and organizing: they’re going to form a union!  A union of food bank volunteers in fact.  Calling themselves the Freedom 90 Union (check them out by clicking here) they have a few simple demands.

First off, they want to be laid off!  They want the government to take urgent action to address income support programs like Ontario Works, and measures like the minimum wage, so that people can buy their food instead of having it given to them at an emergency food program. Second, they want to see the end before they reach age 90.  Action should be sooner rather than later.  Third, they joke, freeze or double our wages!  Since they are all volunteers, to them, it doesn’t matter.  They only want to see food banks close their doors, and the need for them to disappear into thin air.

Are they going to picket? Will they strike if their demands are not being met? (more…)

Expect the unexpected

March 30, 2012

photo via flickr

Each day, week, month and year we are here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program something new and different happens.  It could be an unexpected donation, a new and interesting volunteer, or a new story and difficult decision to make.

So far 2012 has proven to be a challenging year for us.  Our weekly plan for how we will distribute food have required more forethought, planning and second guessing than usual.  Why is that?  There are a few reasons. (more…)

Kartoffel-Blitz!

February 17, 2012

Potato Blitz mascot Spuddy enjoys a photo op at your local FreshCo

The German word blitz has a lot of different meanings.  What exactly is a potato blitz?  Is it some sort of food? Are they going to be falling from the sky?

Well, you don’t have to worry about getting a helmet. And on the bright side, it will involve eating – but I’ll get to that in a little bit.  For us at House of Friendship, blitz means a short, focused effort.  As you may already know, the  Potato Blitz is a one month push to collect as many potatoes as we can so that we can share with the people who turn to us for help.  With me so far?

In just 15 days (between Don Cameron Potato Night and this last Saturday) many, many people have stepped up, pitched in and shared a gift with us:  a gift of potatoes, some kind words of support and a lot of smiles!

I’ve written about Don Cameron Potato Night already.  Last Saturday, it was the second major blitz event, House of Friendship’s annual Supermarket Blitz.  The Supermarket Blitz is a one day community wide effort, where volunteers, staff, friends and family visit local grocery stores and ask their neighbours for some potatoes to help the less fortunate members of our community.  What a day!

In the space of a few hours we received over 22 skids of potatoes from shoppers at 26 different stores across the region!  When combined with the financial donations that were made as well, we collected the equivalent of 102,000 pounds of potatoes!  When we add that to the donations we accepted at Don Cameron Potato night we are only 12,000 pounds away from our goal of 200,000 pound goal.

House of Friendship staff and volunteers take a break in front of some of the 22 skids that were collected during the annual Supermarket Blitz

What’s left now?  We are always accepting donations of more potatoes and other food items.  More info on how you can help here. Every single spud will make a difference to the people we serve, who, are coming to us in record numbers.  This last January was the busiest month in the history of the emergency food hamper program, with 3491 hampers going out our doors to fill empty kitchen cupboards in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Each potato and dollar that is donated this month will help us put food on families tables for most of the coming year. Thanks to Jay West, a local food retailer in St. Jacobs, we will be able to store the spuds in the right conditions so they are still perfect when we need them in the coming months.

Are you planning on attending the community potato lunch next Friday?  It will be between 12 and 1pm, Friday February 24th at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kitchener.  Last years lunch (post here) was a huge success and you can look forward to more great company, and the second (critically acclaimed) soup idol contest where local’s try and win the favour of the judges with their best potato soup recipe.  This year we expect some serious competition. (Do you think your soup recipe is a winner?  We’re still looking for people to compete – you can contact Jenn at 519-742-8327 for more info.)

How high can you leap?

February 8, 2012

February 29 is a day that you don’t get to enjoy very often.  That’s because it only shows up every four years (for most people that is, usually… it’s kind of complicated. There’s more info here). Why do we get to enjoy it in 2012?

It’s a leap year!

What would you do with an extra day in the calendar?  Well, a local teen, named Madi, asked herself this, and wondered if everyone would really appreciate it.  Would it be an extra day of joy, or just another day of struggle?

Madi says: “Through the good and the bad, it always helps to know that someone cares about you.”  She wanted to show that an extra day is something for everyone to celebrate and decided to find 29 ways to prove it.  So, she started a social media campaign to share the idea and get out an important and powerful message: showing others that you care is important and easy to do.

Everything you do for others, no matter how big or small makes a difference for all of us.

If you made a resolution this year to pitch in and help others, this is your chance!

It could be 29 cans of food at your local grocery store donation bin.  It could be 29 kind words to strangers you pass in the street.  29 cents, 29 dollars – you decide how much you want to do and for whom.  But, be sure to share!

You can check out Madi’s campaign on her webpage, youtube channel, twitter and facebook page.  Not sure how you can help?  There are tips, examples and lots of info on ways to take 29 leaps towards a better community.

If you want to take part in this fantastic push to do good for others, consider sharing some of your time this Saturday with House of Friendship’s Potato Blitz.  We are still looking for volunteers!  You can find out more details here or by calling Jenn at 519-742-8327 extension 0.  Help us reach our goal of 200,000lbs of potatoes!

Don Cameron gets results

February 3, 2012

Volunteers and Kitchener Waterloo can move mountains.  Mountains of potatoes that is! How do we know this?  Well, because of the Don Cameron Potato Night of course!

It was, as usual, a record breaking event!  Rangers fans did it again, bringing in 4,800 lbs of potatoes and giving $6,394 in cash donations.  Thanks to a special purchasing agreement with a local supplier we are able to purchase potatoes at an average rate of 15 cents per pound, which means that Rangers fans alone raised the equivalent of 47,425 pounds of spuds, matching last year’s record effort!

Volunteering at the night, Colin shared with me afterwords, “I was excited to see the level of community support House of Friendship has.  There are so many areas of the community we rely on for support and the folks coming to the game represent another one of those corners. It was just amazing to see how many folks do bring out potatoes.”

But there’s more good news.  Zehrs markets donated $5,000 and another 4,500 lbs of potatoes to Don Cameron Potato Night for a total contribution of 37,833 pounds of potatoes.  This means that in one very special evening, Don Cameron Potato Night raised the equivalent of more than 85,000 pounds of potatoes! (more…)


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