It’s Time to Celebrate!

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It seemed like we were just wrapping up Christmas Hampers when the Potato Blitz hit. Now, it too is over. Friday, February 25, we hosted the Community Potato Lunch at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and officially wrapped up a month of potato frenzy. This event, like all the events in this year’s Blitz, was a roaring success! You helped us raise another $3,100 so that we can purchase another 20,000 lbs of potatoes. This brings our grand total to 183,000 lbs of potatoes, which is 13,000 lbs above the campaign goal!

The day began at the hostel, where Sandra had already loaded down the conveyor belt with neatly labelled boxes (like “Vegetarian Chilli,” or “Potato Leek Soup”), extra pots and pans, and plenty of potatoes. When the cargo van was finally filled to the brim, we left for the church to meet the team of people who were ready and excited to start cooking. Sandra took her place as head of the kitchen, assigning recipes, boxes and aprons to volunteers who were soon (if they weren’t already) budding chefs. Before long, the kitchen was full with the sounds and smells of a feast in the making.

A few faces from Eby Village. Ashley, Irene and Steven pause to smile for the camera.

Bill, part of the team of volunteers from Eby Village, chopped vegetables for a chilli recipe. Thanks to the team from Eby Village!

Siblings, Mark and Claudia, used their experience in the kitchen to craft a delicious chilli and sweet potato soup. While they were busy in the kitchen, mom Mary-Jane and brother Michael were busy setting up the dining room and arranging desserts. Thank-you to the Francescutti family!

There were many more volunteers who helped ensure the event ran smoothly. Thank-you to the team from St. Andrew’s, who set up the dining room and served coffee and tea; to Cheryl, who according to Sandra has been “helping since day one,” and to Kelly Daly and Cathy, who were experts in the kitchen. We also need to thank the clean-up crew, which included many staff members. Thank-you all!

It was shortly before noon by the time the food was set out and we were ready to begin serving. The tables were full of potatoes: Potato leek and sweet potato soup, baked potatoes with chilli as a topping, potato pancakes and much more. The hard work of the morning paid off as 200 guests, plus staff and volunteers, filled their plates, bowls and bellies with these dishes.

Wonderful volunteers serving the food they helped prepare.

Les, a familiar face and volunteer from the Supermarket Blitz, was part of the 200 guests who joined us.

Volunteer Rhia helps former House of Friendship Executive Director, Deb Schlicter, fill her plate.

Michael Hackbush stands with Regional Chair, Ken Seiling.

Once everyone had filed through the food line, we were ready to begin the program. The whole point of the potato lunch, besides an excuse to eat together, is to thank everyone involved in making the Potato Blitz the success that it is. This includes the campaign partners, volunteers, churches and grocery stores. The lunch is therefore a unique event because it hosts such a diverse range of people, who might not otherwise cross paths.

It was a full house, as a wide range of people from our community came to show their support and help us wrap up the campaign.

John thanks some of our volunteers, presenting them with certificates of appreciation.

Volunteer Ed Ruppe, was also recognized for his contributions to the campaign.

This year, for the first time, we introduced the Soup Idol competition. Participants Kelly Daly and Wendi Campbell from the Waterloo Region Food Bank entered their best soup recipes to be judged by our hungry guests. Everyone had a chance to sample the two soups on the way to their seats. They cast their votes, and at the end of the program, Christine announced Kelly as this year’s Soup Idol.

John stood with a nervous Wendi, who received honourable mention for her Grandma's Best recipe.

Kelly Daly was named Soup Idol for his Potato Leek Soup. Here, Christine is presenting him with his prize.

Kelly, showing off his Soup Idol prize.

Potatoes have been eaten and the Soup Idol has been named. By all accounts, it seems the February Potato Blitz is over. As far as events go, it is. But proceeds from local Blitz events and potato drives continue to come in and we hope to have the final tally next week.

Here at the Food Hampers warehouse, we continue to receive these Blitz potatoes. The mountains of potatoes remain stocked. It’s easy to forget, when they’re all piled on top of each other, that each bag represents an individual from our community. Someone, like volunteer Betty Anne at the Columbia Street Sobeys or store manager Glen from Zehrs Conestoga, helped build those piles. Ranger’s fans, grocery shoppers, potato-enthusiasts and many, many other volunteers and donors contributed each single bag of potatoes that fill our skids and bins. The Potato Lunch allowed us to remember and pay tribute to every member of this generous community. But we must also be mindful of the many individuals in our community who will receive potatoes from our program, and whose circumstances make the February Potato Blitz a necessity.

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