The Adventures of Spuddy: A Day at the Supermarkets

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Spuddy sports his trademark smile, overwhelmed by excitement at the beginning of the Supermarket Blitz day.

On Saturday morning, with a fresh layer of snow on the ground, Spuddy and Sweet Potato set out to visit all 17 of the grocery stores participating in this year’s Supermarket Blitz. It was no small task. Never before have so many supermarkets or volunteers been involved! While the results are not quite in, one thing is certain: We have a dedicated and compassionate community to be thankful for.

This year included, once again, a wealth of enthusiastic volunteers from local churches who collected potatoes and cash at supermarkets across the region. Spuddy and Sweet Potato met volunteers from St. Andrews, Kitchener East Presbyterian, Calvin Presbyterian, Doon Presbyterian, Christ Lutheran, Trinity United, Knox Presbyterian, Calvary United, Parkminister United, St. Louis Roman Catholic, Kitchener-Waterloo Christian Fellowship and St. Jacobs Mennonite. These warm faces dotted the entrances and exits of an all-time high number of supermarkets, including Food Basics Fairway Road, Waterloo Town Square’s Valu-Mart, Central Fresh Market, various Sobeys and Zehrs stores across K-W and this year for the first time, Foodland in Elmira.

Although the volunteers were united in their warmth and dedication, they all brought their own unique gifts and approaches to the art of collecting potatoes. At Zehrs Conestoga, volunteers Joy, Bob and their grandson Ray gathered around a skid of potatoes, which shoppers could not avoid on their way in. “It helps that Zehrs is selling the bags at a good price today,” Bob told me while passing off a $2.50 bag of potatoes.

Spuddy stands with volunteers (from left), Bob, Ray and Joy, as well as Zehrs Conestoga store manager, Glenn.

At the Columbia Street Sobeys, longtime volunteer Betty Anne used a similar approach. She too stood next to a skid of potatoes, which was neatly nestled into the corner of the store, gently placing bags of potatoes into shoppers’ carts as they settled into their grocery shopping. Betty Anne was an unassuming force, whose secret was in her smile and commitment. When I asked how long she intended on staying at the grocery store that day, she replied, “Not long enough. It’s never long enough, if you ask me.”

Betty Anne with Spuddy.

Is it any wonder Betty Anne is such an effective potato-collector?

For Les, who has been volunteering ever since his wife Elna started, he brought his experience as a salesman to the task and shoppers at the Bridgeport Sobeys didn’t know what hit them. “I can tell when people come in that they aren’t too sure about us. They try to avoid eye contact. But I don’t let them get away that easily,” he told me while laughing.

Les and Spuddy share persuasion techniques at the Bridgeport Sobeys.

At the Glenridge Zehrs, volunteers Catherine, Dwight and Ab told us about why they enjoy being a part of the Supermarket Blitz, and it wasn’t about the thrill of receiving a $100 donation. No, they recounted numerous stories of shoppers who handed over a bag of potatoes or some change saying, “House of Friendship helped me out when I needed it,” or, “This organization saved my brother’s life,” and were happy for the opportunity to give back.

Dwight with Spuddy at the Glenridge Zehrs, happy to be enabling members of the community give back.

Every year, volunteers like the ones shown above make this day the success that it is. While some, like Betty Anne, have been doing this for years, we have volunteers of all ages and potato-collecting experience. This includes the faces we encountered at the newest Blitz location, Foodland in Elmira. Here, members of the St. Jacob’s Mennonite church youth group were camped out. We were greeted at the entrance by Wally, who pioneered the idea of having a location in Elmira. “Every year we wanted to volunteer, and it just didn’t make sense to drive all the way into Waterloo to do so. We thought it would be beneficial for everyone to begin collecting potatoes here! Then we got the youth on board.” With that said, she pointed us toward the center of the store, where three smiling teenage girls were working their magic.

Wally and Spuddy at Foodland.

Carly, Jasmine and Heather take the first shift of many youth group members throughout the day.

Spuddy in front of Foodland in Elmira.

So we added a few new locations to the roster this year, and we also tried some new tactics. At Beechwood Zehrs in particular, Faith FM joined alongside volunteers to get people to donate potatoes. Michelle and Pat brought the Faith FM Smart Car, using it to house potatoes being donated and encouraging shoppers to see how many times they could fill the car. As soon as a car-load was achieved, the potatoes were moved into the Way-Mar truck, which eventually brought all the potatoes donated from Beechwood to the Emergency Food Hamper Program.

Michelle and Pat from Faith FM brave the blustering snow with Sweet Potato and Spuddy.

Spuddy and King Spud stand with the Faith FM Smart Car. When we visited half way through the way, the car had already been filled twice!

A big thank-you to Way-Mar for the use of their truck to transport potatoes directly to the Emergency Food Hamper Program.

As you can tell, it was an exceptionally busy day for Spuddy, who visited all of the Waterloo stores and Sweet Potato, who visited all the Kitchener stores. But with only one event left to go in this year’s February Potato Blitz, the two are glad for the adventure and all the wonderful volunteers, grocery store staff and shoppers who made the day so exciting.

Spuddy making friends with a cashier at the Bridgeport Sobeys.

And with shoppers, big and small, too!

Early  Monday morning a new group of volunteers helped get things ready for a busy day at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  In the first hour and a half that they were open some of the donated potatoes were on their way home with 70 families representing 156 people.  All the hard work of the weekend continues to have a huge impact!

Thank-you, thank-you! The official results will be posted in the next couple of days. Until then, make sure you’ve marked February 25th, the day of the Community Potato Lunch, in your calendar!

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One Response to “The Adventures of Spuddy: A Day at the Supermarkets”

  1. A Spud-Filled Warehouse « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] reason we continue to have so many potatoes is because of the success of the Supermarket Blitz. I blogged already about the volunteers, cashiers and shoppers who made this day so wonderful, and now the […]

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