Archive for July, 2010

Building a Community – One Young Soul at a Time

July 29, 2010

“Young”, “vibrant” and “energetic” were the first words that projected into my head when Lianna and I arrived at the Courtland-Shelley Community Centre. It’s not a typical community centre like YMCA, nor a two million dollar facility that you visit for your weekly workout. Low-key and modest, the centre sits among a neighbourhood of 69 townhouses, only distinguishable through its sign that reads “Courtland-Shelley Community Centre.” (more…)

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If you ate today…. thank a farmer!

July 27, 2010

Summer is here with full force, and there is a lot to choose from at the busy farmers markets and roadside produce stands all across the region.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately who have been making full use of the locally produced Buy Local Buy Fresh maps to pick up flowers, potatoes, corn and other seasonal goodies for their table.

For those who lack the income to put food on their tables, places like us exist to help address some of those needs, where possible.   People receiving food from us often thank us profusely for the service we provide, but we’re really just facilitating the generosity of their neighbours.  We don’t grow the food or earn the money to purchase it.  We just work to receive, sort and ultimately honour the generosity of others by ensuring that it goes to the people who need it.

This week has seen a tremendous amount of produce come to us from a number of local farmers and groups.  The Elmira Produce Auction has shared zucchini and cucumbers.  Jay West Wholesale Produce has donated beans, greens and peppers.  A farm in the Milton area donated potatoes, lettuce, greens like kale and spinach as well as zucchini and fresh herbs.  And to top it all off (so far!) Trevor Herrle of Herrle’s Country Farm Market shared an overflowing tote of corn and sweet potatoes with us this morning! Through the magic of twitter here they are:

From the fields to the back of our truck! Another great donation from Herrle's.

The corn is already on our food distribution line beside the beans and potatoes, finding it’s way into hampers as I type this up.  The sweet potatoes are now in boxes hanging out with the cucumbers at our hamper “window”, and hamper packers are offering them as an extra item to everyone getting food today.

At the best of times, you always need to remember where your food comes from.  But when things are looking grim, we’re all very fortunate that people locally are thinking of others, and sharing what they can with those in need.  For all of us here at the Food Hamper Program, it’s humbling to see the variety and quantity that comes our way.

Volunteer Spotlight – Verna Keller

July 27, 2010

Verna is no stranger to volunteering. Before she started to volunteer with our program, Verna volunteered with the now defunct Theatre & Company in Kitchener. She worked there with one of our past volunteers, Pat Pollard, who sadly passed away in January 2009. Luckily, Pat told Verna about our program, and we’ve had Verna on board with us ever since!

Why is volunteering important to you?

“It’s a very good way to learn new skills,  meet people, and to get to know your community.”

You mentioned that you have done a lot of volunteering over the years and continue to do so now… How do you fit in the time to volunteer for our program and other programs?

“I do what I feel is important.  Volunteering and meeting new people energizes me, so I continue to seek out new opportunities.”

How has volunteering  made an impact in your life?

It provides variety… I’ve learned about different diets. Also it made me realize that no matter how bad of a day you think you’re having, there are others experiencing worse.”

What are your interests/hobbies when you are not working?

“I enjoy special event planning and gardening.”

What are you growing this year?

Berries and flowers.”

Any plans for the summer?

“No plans, but I’m always planning something.”

Four years and 825 volunteer hours later, Verna continues to come once a week to pack hampers. We look forward to Verna’s shift;  she will keep you in stitches with her jokes, plus her laugh infects the warehouse with fun! Lastly, her thoughtfulness stands out, as she always ensures that our clients get what they need in their food hampers… Thanks Verna!

 

Stone Soup at Sunnydale

July 23, 2010

In many ways, food distribution here at House of Friendship travels outside of the food hamper box.  Excess food from the hamper program, for example, is taken to HoF’s residential programs and community centres to assist with their programming. Lucas and I were given the task of visiting the Sunnydale Community Centre to observe how they distribute this food and swap some knowledge about KW food insecurity. What we discovered was not simply a table covered in fruits and vegetables, but a bustling, social space where community members can build relationships over the common need for food.

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Profile on Mobility and Delivering Food Assistance

July 20, 2010

For about a year now this father has turned to our program for a little extra food assistance for himself and two teenage sons. Although one son has recently moved out, things aren’t getting any easier for his father. For a number of years he ran his own business,  but eventually maintaining his health began consuming all of his time. He’s had to let go of contracts and clients to find the time and energy for all his hospital visits and medical appointments, while his increasing weight loss leaves him reliant on a walker to help him travel almost any distance. The past few months he’s found himself unable to work at all, doing his best to manage his bills and expenses with his Ontario Works cheques. For the most part it’s been working out well; but as his prescription costs keep rising, money has been getting tight.  It’s a constant struggle to find extra money for transportation to his medical appointments and bus tickets for his sons to get to school. Considering all these factors,  it’s not hard to see why this father needs food assistance.

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Have you heard this before?

July 15, 2010

In response to our post about food skills and the question “have you heard this before?” Linda of the Sunnydale Community Centre (formerly of Live and Learn) had the following to say:

“Yes, I have heard this and it has often led to some good conversation and hopefully, some education.

People who live on a limited income and have had the opportunity to learn about nutrition and food preparation either at school or at home, tend to use this knowledge and these skills to prepare and provide meals for their families.  They face the additional challenge, while living on a limited income, of providing and preparing nutritious meals on a limited budget.  They also know and struggle when they are not able to provide the nutrition they would like to provide.

Other people who live on a limited income and have not had the opportunity to learn about nutrition and food preparation often provide food for their families as it was provided for them when they were growing up.  The Live and Learn program, Community Nutrition Workers in the community centres and Community Kitchens, all work to address this.  It is my experience that the majority of individuals who are given an opportunity to learn about nutrition and food preparation are very excited to do this and then work to prepare and provide healthy meals for their families.  I can easily recall hearing multiple Live and Learn women ask the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons, questioning whether it’s safe to cook your own food, or commenting that they’d never used anything other than a can opener to make a meal.

It’s simply a matter of opportunities – for education, for experience and for adequate food.   I’ve met very few people who would turn any of these things down.”

Passions Driven Life

July 13, 2010

Hi everyone, my name is Lucas Lu and I am one of the Summer Student Special Projects assistants here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program. I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to work here alongside many amazing staff members, and the chance to learn from people that come from different social and economic backgrounds.

Just a little bit about myself. I have just finished my third year of the business program at Wilfrid Laurier and have one more year to go before I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! My two biggest passions in life are technology and social innovation. They are seemingly two very isolated fields, but if we dig deep enough, we will start to see their roots are all interconnected in every way possible.

Technology can truly change the way we work, live and interact with one another. The birth of computer technology and the internet made this even more evident. In the summer of 2009, I started a new technology venture with a few friends that aims to create a dashboard for researching, collecting and managing information. Through the process of building a business, I was given many opportunities to expose myself to many of the latest technological inventions that bear the potential to make our community a better place to live for all. (more…)

Challenges of Delivering Food Hampers

July 12, 2010

In 2009 our program distributed an average of 137 food hampers each day; well 137.3333333333 if you really want to get specific. That’s about 27 hampers for each hour that we’re open to the community. In an ideal world we’d be able to deliver each and every food hamper, regardless of if the patron could come down or not, to save each patron from worrying about transportation, but that’s not realistic given how many hampers we distribute. We’ve pulled off some incredible things here, like serving 278 hampers in a single day, but I don’t think we could find enough volunteers and vehicles to deliver all those hampers around KW. I also don’t think it would be possible to further stretch our drivers’ schedules of donation pick ups to help deliver any of those hampers. Luckily we just don’t have to worry about that, because it has worked for many years for a majority of our patrons to find transportation or arrange a pick up by a case worker, friend or family member. (Phew!)

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Not Your Average Summer Gig

July 8, 2010

Hello! I’m Lianna, one of the Special Projects Assistants this summer.  I just graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a double degree in Global Studies and English and a minor in History; needless to say, I love learning, and learning about everything! I’ve finally zeroed in on the goal to study poverty, insecurity and education in graduate school in the coming years, something my heart was drawn to only recently. After too many monotonous after-school and summer jobs (from a clothing salesperson to an overworked waitress in Ireland) I was fortunate to turn a few weeks of volunteering into a summer student position with Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region in 2008. I soon became passionate about working with not only underprivileged individuals in my community, but with dedicated volunteers that share my enthusiasm. I find that these traits make a position less of a job and more of a positive daily learning experience, something I have already sensed in my first few days at House of Friendship. (more…)