Just because we’re closed, doesn’t mean we’re not busy

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On the first Wednesday of each month our program shuts down to the public so that our staff have a chance to visit other programs, sit down for staff meetings and updates, attend development or training sessions, spend time cleaning, or take the time to complete various other small tasks that we don’t seem to have time for in our busy day-to-day operations. This past Wednesday November 3rd was no exception – in fact we did a little of all of these things.

To start our busy day we began at the Ray of Hope Community Center for the Waterloo Region Shares Food Assistance Network Forum. One of the main reasons for this gathering is to connect various food assistance programs in a meeting to discuss and educate ourselves on how each program can improve their services so the region is providing more coordinated, effective and efficient type of service for the patrons who need food assistance. The forum involved some educational and informational sessions, training workshops, and table discussions for participants to discuss ideas about issues related to the work of providing food assistance.

The schedule on the forum began with a presentation on the historical perspective and culture of poverty by June at the Cambridge Self Help Food bank. She presented a PowerPoint of facts and food for thought around the ideas of how events throughout history have contributed to one of the current perceptions of poverty today. Following this our larger groups broke up into three workshops being offered: volunteer training and retention (presented by Volunteer Action Center), working with multicultural populations (presented by Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre Settlement Workers), and Nutrition and Food Assistance (presented by Region of Waterloo Public Health Registered Dietician). Our staff spread out through each session so that we could later share the knowledge provided with each other in a staff meeting later, since we still had a few other items on the forum agenda.

The next sessions speaker, Gail Nyberg (who came all the way from  Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank program) provided updates on the social assistance review advisory council that she has been working on over the last few years. Gail had a clear sense of purpose behind her work and is clearly driven to tackling some of the bigger picture issues that are facing people living in low-income situations. Her passion to tackle the bigger issues transitioned into small discussions between each program sector (community centers and outreach workers, meal programs, and food hamper programs). Matt led the discussion of trying to coordinate ways that the SVDP churches, our program and other food assistance programs could organize their resources in a way to provide more efficient services for those in need. Though we all tried to make progress on the issues we’re facing we didn’t get too far since we were limited on time and had only a small selection of the many food hamper programs in attendance. But nevertheless it was good to take the chance to connect and learn about other programs; so I’d like to say thank you to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region for their work in coordinating all these many workshops and sessions!

Kaverie joined us as a representative from the United Way.

After this interesting forum, we came back to our program to hosts the United Way tea social. The social began with Matt providing a brief overview of how our program works and Christine introducing us to representative of the United Way who joined us for the event, and who later joined me on a tour of our program.

(Anyone else who is interested in bringing a group or themselves for a tour is always welcome! We just ask you try to call ahead to make arrangements with a staff member so we can try to have someone available and prepared to spend a few minutes showing you around.) The United Way representative (Kaverie) also allowed us to let Mirela, a House of Friendship staffer from the main office, inform us of the success in the staff United Way fundraising campaign.

Our new intake worker (Kim) enjoying her first Wednesday close and the United Way Tea.

Though we’ve collected an incredible amount of money to support United Way, we’re still a little bit away from reaching our goal – so contact Mirela or Christine if you’re able to make any financial contribution to help us achieve our goal.

Although this social simply would not have happened or have been such a great success without the hard work of Nadir, who missed the forum session to spend time cleaning our lobby area so people had a clean and welcoming place to visit. Also Christine and Mirela deserve a big thank you for all their work in providing snacks, refreshments, taking pictures, and setting up various House of Friendship promotional brochures for people to browse. I personally thought it was great that

Anton (our program driver) and I posing together wearing the famous donated glasses.

you found glasses for everyone to wear in the picture that is similar to one of the gift in kind donations many of our staff wore in the summer. You made this a true success and we all had a great time thanks to your efforts!

Finally the staff from 807 wrapped up the day to discuss various reminders and updates such as health and safety concerns, status of volunteer scheduling, food supplies at the Food Bank, and to mentally prepare ourselves for the busy holiday season that is quickly approaching. Since Christmas Hamper forms were recently sent out in the government assistance cheques sometime in the last two weeks we’re anticipating more people to drop by for emergency hampers and to drop off their application form.

What is the Christmas Hamper? For more information about the Christmas Hamper Program, check out our website (here and here for more info from our friends at the Rotary Club) and stay tuned to this blog during the month of December.  

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