Archive for June, 2011

Sharing the rewards

June 30, 2011

Many grocery stores are trying to find ways to reward their shoppers by purchasing food from their stores. For some this means offering incredible sales on essential or staple food items in their weekly flyer; and for others it means offering a points reward system.

Some of you may be familiar with the Sobey’s reward card, but for others here’s a little introduction. The “Club Sobey’s” card offers customers an opportunity to collect points for every whole dollar spent in a Sobey’s grocery store when they swipe their card at the check out. Extra points are awarded to specific items, which are often promoted in their flyer. The card has no initial sign up cost or annual fees. The points collected can be converted into Aeroplan miles; food related rewards on the online catalogue; or saved up to redeem free grocery items. If you’re interested in collecting these rewards, click here to apply online, sign up in stores, or call 1-877-7SOBEYS (1-877-776-2397).

But why is this important? How is this related to the work that we do?

Club Sobeys members have the opportunity to donate the points they earn on their Club Sobey’s card to a charitable organization or food bank program. People have the options to choose between the following agencies:

–         Boys and Girls Club

–         Daily Bread Food Bank

–         Second Harvest

–         Toonies for Tummies c/o The Grocery Foundation

–         Ontario Association of Food Banks

–         The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

Many of these agencies deal with providing food to low-income households or programs that will provide assistance to those in need. The other piece to these programs is that they aim to provide services that will assist in providing a healthy lifestyle development. Please click on the above names to learn more about the organization, if you’re interested. If you’re interested in donating your points, please click here. Your points will make a significant difference in your community and to a family in need.

Volunteer Spotlight: Erv

June 30, 2011

When I asked Erv to do this interview, he was stocking our bread rack so that the hamper packers would have bread to put in the hampers. I told Erv that I would wait until he was done and he could come and find me. I had a feeling that Erv doesn’t like to leave a job unfinished. He often comes in very quietly and gets straight to work. He told me that he and his wife had their own office supply business called Mr.Stationer for 25 years, before that he worked at another office supply business, this was all before the bigger office supply stores came into the community. Erv has been volunteering with us once a week since the end of March and it’s been a joy to have him here. (more…)

Give someone a boost

June 27, 2011

This week has been difficult one for the people who have walked through our doors.  They’ve been trying to get the money together to buy food, for starters, but with a little help from our volunteers and donors, most have been able to get by.  Some have not been as lucky.

Wendy came in this week, looking for food like everyone else, but not the kind that we were giving out.  We had a lot of strawberries, which was great.  We even had cheese, which was a real treat for everyone too.  What she really needed however, were meal replacement drinks, which we did not have.  (more…)

A solution is only 3 numbers away

June 24, 2011

What do you do if you are concerned about how much alcohol you drink each night, and your inability to stop? Who do you call if you have an eviction notice tacked to your door? What if you just lost your job and are unsure of how you’re going to pay the bills that are piling up?

Take Jay, as a hypothetical example. Against the better advice of his family and school counselors he didn’t finish high school because he wanted to start providing for his girl friend and their new son. Since the birth of his son, he’s had a few casual jobs on construction sites, and some service jobs here and there. In general Jay has worked very hard to keep food on the table. But today, after a series of bad decisions and a good measure of bad luck, he’s a single parent of a toddler with no job, no money and an empty fridge. So what does he do? (more…)

Another Perspective on ‘Being Here’

June 22, 2011

A few weeks after I started this job, I met Maria.  She was part of a Guatemalan family that I registered. It was their first time to our program and they were accompanied by a support worker who spoke Spanish.

The husband and wife stared at me as I leafed through their paperwork— government issued for landed refugee claimants—and began to set up their file. They didn’t speak any English and were obviously uncomfortable with the entire process.  For the relatively small number of newcomer families that I deal with, this isn’t totally uncommon.  Many of them are using services like ours for the first time.  Sometimes there are cultural differences that make the whole experience a little overwhelming or stressful. I just assumed it was a new experience for them and carried on with the intake process, using their support worker as an interpreter.

“Do they have any food allergies or special diets?” I asked.

I wished I could speak Spanish so that I could better ease their worry and assure them we could help and were happy to do so.

“She is pregnant” the caseworker said.  “In fact, she is due next month. Would that make a difference?”

“OK.” I replied, “We’ll make a note of it.  Let her know that when the baby is here, we can give her some baby items as well, once a month.  In the meantime, we can put some extra things in the hamper that are appropriate for her.  Also, could you tell me their address?”

“Actually,” the caseworker replied, “they just arrived into the country a few hours ago – currently they are staying at a refugee shelter.” (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Rob

June 15, 2011

On a quite afternoon I found a job for Rob. Nice rhyme eh? Well I’m not as funny as this volunteer so I’ll leave the jokes to him. I’ll stick to what I’m good at – introducing the volunteers and sharing some of the interesting facts and quotes that they shared with me.

Rob is a remarkable volunteer with a long history here. He started volunteering back in September of 2006. Yet the more amazing part is how much he’s grown here and the amount of hours he’s been in this building, which is totaling somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1 800 hours!! But I don’t want to give away too much more of his story because he tells it better. So here goes…

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“My tenant at the time was volunteering or getting assistance here. I decided I wanted to try volunteering for the first time, especially since I live close to this location. Here’s a funny story though: when I walked down the driveway somebody outside told me that this place wasn’t looking for volunteers. I almost walked away but then I thought I’ll leave my name anyways. Well when I walked in the Volunteer Coordinator was happy to set up an orientation with me. In the end I’m glad I didn’t listen to the person outside.”

We’re definitely glad you didn’t listen because we’re often always looking for volunteers. Maybe not right away, but a spot usually opens up within the next few weeks. Anyways, why is volunteering important to you?

“The way I see it is that if you want to be happy in life you need to take your mind off yourself and use that time to make others happy.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“Working here has helped me learn a lot about people. I use to work in factories and construction but never with the public. I enjoy being face-to-face with all the different family sizes and cultures.”

To read more about how we accommodate special diets, please visit this previous blog.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“Irritating the staff! (We took a break to laugh and share some stories)….Really I enjoy the variety. When I started I was bagging food and doing odd jobs in the warehouse. Then after about two years I wanted to learn to pack hampers. Now when I come in I like that I can jump back and forth to help out with whichever is needed more.”

Note: When Rob started no one would have guessed that he’d be packing hampers one day. He had such a quiet nature to him at the beginning; but over the years we’ve been fortunate to see him come out of his shell. All the positive reinforcement really has paid off to build his confidence, and add a member to our hamper packing team. 

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not working or volunteering?

“I chop a lot of wood because I try to heat my house with a wood stove through the winter. Doing yard work keeps me busy in the summer too. I enjoy camping. Other than that I don’t think I’m that exciting – probably because I’m too busy being here.”  

Well Rob we always appreciate that you’re able to commit so many days a week to us in a pinch between finding a new set of volunteers; and that you’re “on-call” to save us when other volunteers call in last-minute! I can’t even count how many times you’ve just stopped in to make sure we have enough volunteers too. It’s extraordinary how much you care about helping the many families and individuals who need our program. I don’t think we can say thank you enough or that thank you even covers the amount of gratitude we have for you! You’re tremendous and we’re so glad that you’ve been a faithful volunteer for all these years. THANK YOU!

Being here is…

June 9, 2011

Being here is trying to divide 350 1L cartons of milk between 700 families.

Being here is seeing someone excited to get a tooth-brush but not being able to give them toothpaste.

Being here is seeing someone get excited about getting last years Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Being here is watching someone leave food behind because they can’t carry it.

Being here is seeing someone get excited because you have a backpack you can give them so they can carry all of their food home.

Being here is celebrating a volunteers birthday.

Being here is seeing the disappointment in someone’s face when you tell them we have no stale bread to give them for the second day in a row.

Being here is having a 5 year old ask you if they can give you a hug after delivering a box of food to her family.

Being here is seeing people excited about free used clothing.

Being here is meeting someone one week who’s excited they found the a nice shirt and then meeting them again the following week and seeing how much more excited they are to have found the matching pants and completing the outfit.

Being here is deciding which day of the week we will give out peanut butter, and if we will have enough to share with everyone who comes in that day.

Being here is wondering if the food delivery truck will be full or empty before the driver opens the door.

Being here is sometimes the ability to choose how many bins of fresh corn you can receive from a donor a week.  (Thanks Trevor!)

Being here is having to negotiate with people, who don’t want to be “too greedy”, to take more food before it goes bad and we have to compost/throw it out.

Being here is having to throw out rotten food because not enough people came in that week, and because it only had a day or two of life left in it when we received it, in the first place.

Being here is having the ability to hand out fresh fruits and vegetables most days.

Being here is giving out oversized cauliflower heads just because they’re seconds.

Being here is not having enough food to give to everyone who is coming in.

Being here is being busier than expected, giving more food in the morning, and less in the middle of the day, so you don’t run out of food for the last few families that will come to us for help just before we close.


(Thanks to John Scalzi for the inspiration and all the staff at the food Hamper Program for sharing their insights.)

Farming and volunteering – the rising cost of food from a farming volunteer

June 8, 2011

To date we’ve shared some of the thoughts from House of Friendship, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and Herrle’s Country Market around effects of rising food prices. But as we promised in our introductory post, we’ll share some of the thoughts from Dennis: a farmer, and a current volunteer with our program and the House of Friendship Board of Directors. Originally I was going to introduce Dennis in a volunteer spotlight; however after talking with him and reading newspaper articles about rising food prices, Matt and I agreed it would be better to shine attention on him by letting him weigh in our discussion about rising food prices. So let’s get started:  (more…)

Family sticks together – the rising cost of food and the family farm

June 3, 2011

As Melissa blogged about earlier, the rising cost of food is getting a lot of play in the media and is weekly on the minds of everyone who does any grocery shopping – especially if you’re on a limited or fixed income.

Higher or lower, the cost of food is a struggle for many on both sides of the producer/consumer coin.  The people who grow it, ship it, store it, sell it and buy it all have an interest in how much food costs and what is good for one, may not be good for all.

We have shared our perspective already, with some words from John our executive director, as well as Tony, our Community Services Director.  Today we are going to share a few words from Trevor Herrle, a local farmer and businessman, who’s family has helped our organization tremendously.

You can learn more about the Herrle’s and their country farm market here, as well as read some blog posts by Trevor on the excellent Food Link blog here.  He is also an active tweeter (follow @HerrlesMarket) and provides some really interesting views into what it’s like to be a farmer. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Marge

June 2, 2011

Today we have another wonderful volunteer to share: Marge! Marge is a dedicated volunteer who has helped out for over 700 hours – 115 of those coming in last year. Marge has been volunteering since December of 2005. In this time Marge she has shared a lot about herself, and taken a great interest in getting to know some of the patrons, staff and volunteers. Before the interview I knew a little bit about Marge but this experience definitely helped me learn a lot more.  I’m very excited to be able to showcase her!

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“I’ve always been aware of House of Friendship since I moved to Cambridge about 35 years ago. My church has tried to help out in various ways throughout the years. But a couple of years ago my husband was the one who brought up volunteering here. Though he’s moved on to other volunteering activities I hope to be around for a while.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

“Volunteering is a part of who I am. I value the idea of helping others so I’ve built it into my lifestyle. I used to be a social worker, so I like to still be involved. It keeps me up-to-date on who needs to be supported or what I need to advocate for.”

Are there any other programs that you volunteer or have volunteered with?

“I help out with different activities in my church throughout the year. Since last spring I have been involved with an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. And I’ve also been involved with various support groups in a cancer-care support facility (Hope Spring) and for individuals who struggle with being abused as children.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“Again I’d probably say that volunteering here keeps me aware of what the needs are in the community. But getting to know the staff and other volunteers is a big perk. Everyone is so fun to be around so it’s hard not to enjoy helping out here.”

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“Really I don’t mind doing any job while I’m here. I started mostly bagging food or diapers in the beginning; but now I’m here more to pack hampers. I’d probably say that I enjoy packing hampers more though because it’s very interesting for me to meet and talk with all the different types of people and families that use this service. I know it’s only a brief conversation but I feel like its important because I can take the chance to share some cooking tips, they’ll tell me about how their kids love or hate the foods we have to offer, and other things like that.”

To read more about the significance of us distributing baby items, click here.

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re volunteering?

“I love reading and spending time with my grandchildren. And I love cooking. I’m always looking to try new recipes and find creative ways to get my family to eat more vegetables and other healthy foods.”

Marge I think it’s phenomenal that your interest in helping people remains so strong after many years. You come in week after week to lend a hand with whatever task we need and always seem to do it with a smile. I especially love your cooking advice, since I live with a picky eater. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to helping our program and the people we serve each day.