Archive for December, 2011

Not so different after all

December 24, 2011

Today is the day before Christmas, a day when many of us will be exchanging gifts with friends and family and coming together.  Today we thought it would be timely to share a few words from Michael Hackbusch, the Chaplaincy Director at House of Friendship about the local faith community, and the many gifts they share with our community each year.


12days of Pitching In

December 21, 2011

It has been an extraordinary 12 days of giving and sharing in Kitchener Waterloo.  Over six hundred volunteers have helped the House of Friendship these last few weeks to move a record number of Christmas Hampers out into the community and into people’s cupboards.

Who are these people? Schools, individuals, businesses, friends and coworkers have collected food, packed it up and driven it out to people.  Others have endured the elements to hand out more than 3000 turkeys and ensure that people have something to share with friends and family as they sit down together this weekend to celebrate each other and to look forward to the coming year.

On this blog we have shared some inspiration, ideas and suggestions on how you can do something big or small to make this region a little nicer for everyone.  We hope that you were moved to action and we would love to hear how it went for you.  Haven’t taken the plunge into volunteering yet?  Why not make it your new years resolution to get out there and volunteer?  There are lots of great places to help you get started.

What good is there in volunteering and the collective efforts of these hundreds of people who have given some, or in some cases, all of their time these last few weeks in the service of others?

Our Executive Director, John, asked these same questions recently.  He shared with us these words:

“We have now finished delivering 4081 “little gifts” in the form of Christmas Hampers.  Delivering these gifts this past week has been an eye-opening experience for me, bringing home the importance of people having appropriate housing, being part of community, accessing addition treatment, and being nourished with food and more.  At the end of the deliveries, I came home with many more questions, and very few answers. What good will this one Christmas Hamper do? What do my efforts matter? Individual efforts can at times seem so futile but when I think about all of our individual efforts combined, I feel hope!”

“My hope is rekindled each time I attend one of our program’s Christmas celebrations.  What a gift to see the transformation of individuals as a result of safe and affordable housing, recovery, life skills training, community building, support with parenting, and a listening ear. So many great stories! Stories that we share with our community to inspire and challenge them to Pitch In and make a difference so that hope can always be present in our community.”

Each day at the many programs of the House of Friendship and the countless non-profit groups that work with people in need, volunteers and hope transform people’s lives.  By sharing tangible goods like food and clothing, or intangible things like a listening year, a caring word and positive attitude you can make a real difference to someone.

Yesterday I spoke with Oscar, who called to update me on his efforts to deliver at least 100 Christmas Hampers.  The last time I had spoken with him, he was already at 125 hampers.  Yesterday he told me he had just finished his 151st delivery.  In response to my words of amazement and congratulation he shared with me “I just program my GPS and drive around and drop them off.  It’s something I really enjoy doing, and when you see how happy people are to receive it, it makes it all worth it.”

If you volunteer, thank you!  Let us know what makes it worthwhile for you on twitter, facebook or the comment space below.  If you’re thinking of volunteering in 2012, what do you hope to get out of it?  As we hope you have seen this last 12 days, it’s easy and it makes a world of difference to everyone in our community.

Day 11: Pitching In with a gift

December 20, 2011

“Please don’t forget me.”

This is what a woman said to me on the phone last week.  She was one of the many people who were concerned that her Christmas Food Hamper would not be delivered and that somehow her name had gotten lost.

Uncertainty and doubt is a common sight for many non-profit organizations.  Where will my next meal come from? Will I overcome my illness? Will I lose in my struggle with this addiction? I can’t pay my rent this month, will I get evicted?

How do we answer these questions?  With the giving spirit and kindness of volunteers many of them will receive the right answer.  Yes, here is some food. Yes, we will walk with you on your road to recovery.  Yes, we will find you the resources and ensure that you stay housed.

On the other side of the coin, people at this time of year, are swept up in the spirit of giving and wonder where to direct their gifts.   It can be a hard to decide.  There are many needs, many organizations and many causes all asking for your support.  Who should you help?  How will you ensure that the families who need help can get some?

One place you can start is your phone book yellow pages.  What are your interests?  Do you like animals?  Where is the local animal shelter? It is very likely they will always need your help with money, volunteering or gifts in kind. Does someone in your family have an addiction they are struggling with?  There are probably treatment programs in your area that could use your help.

Another great place to start to find the contact information for a non-profit in need of assistance is 211 (more info from our blog here and from their website here) or locally, the Community Information Centre, operated in KW by the Social Planning Council.

If you’re interested in helping programs and agencies that work with people’s immediate needs the Community Information Centre has a handy resource on their website.  It’s a listing of places that help with immediate needs (here) like hospitals, emergency shelters for men, women and youth; as well as programs that assist with food.  They also have a listing of some of the key programs that help with other needs (here) like legal advice, counselling, housing and clothing.

This can be a quick start to finding the right place for you, if you are looking donate.  But maybe you want to learn more about the organization before you write the cheque? You can give them a call and ask them some questions, or you can look them up on the Canada Revenue Agencies website (here), where you can find out more about their financial details and operations.  Most organizations will have an annual report that they will be happy to send you, or you can even find it on their website  (our’s is here).

Non-profits depend on donations to do their work.  If you are not able to make a financial contribution, consider your closets and basement and attic.  You may have some new or gently used clothing, furniture, books, dishes or toys that may delight and make a huge difference to someone in need.  However, consider your intended recipient before driving a truck load of stuff over.  Now is a busy season and many people are in a similar mindset to your own.  It’s hard to help others when you’re up to your neck in bags of clothing, and it’s heartbreaking to have to throw something out because it was left on your doorstep over the weekend and is now waterlogged, falling apart and filthy after getting rained on.  If you have the space to hold onto it, maybe they would appreciate it sometime in the new year?

Every little bit helps.  Even if it’s a set of mugs that you never really needed, or ten spare dollars that you have to share.  It all gets put to use, helping others, and ensuring that they are not forgotten, now, or any other time, the rest of the year.

Good Deeds with Carlos

December 19, 2011

Is is easy to volunteer?  How much of a difference can you make in an hour or two?  Is it worthwhile?

These are all questions that Carlos, a local radio host with 91.5 The Beat, decided to answer.  As we mentioned previously (here) he is out in the community doing a different volunteer job with a different agency each day for 30 days.  This last Saturday was day Deed 23 and he was helping the House of Friendship distribute turkeys

Today is day 10 of our 12Days campaign.  Tomorrow is the final day of turkey distribution and by that time the last of the Christmas Hamper should be safely stashed away in people’s cupboards.  As of this morning, the final count for Christmas Hampers is 4081!  The 600+ volunteers who have helped accomplish this amazing record have touched the lives of thousands of people.   As Carlos demonstrates, you can make a big difference to someone in the space of an hour or two.  This is something that people never forget.

Have you decided to volunteer yet?  Let us know!  Comment, tweet @HOFKW or post on our facebook wall.

Lots of little things during 12days

December 18, 2011

Work at the Christmas Hamper warehouse is quiet for the weekend.  As we start day 9 of the 12day campaign, we can pause to reflect on the frantic week that has just come to a close.

The need for Christmas Hampers has never been this great.  As of Friday, over 4000 hampers had been assembled by our team of volunteers.  They officially wrapped up their efforts on the assembly line with several rounds of applause for the amazing feat they had just completed. More than 3700  hampers had been hand delivered by countless volunteers. After a pause for Saturday and today, the remaining three or four hundred hampers will be delivered on Monday and Tuesday.

Do you remember Oscar? By 2pm Friday afternoon he had dropped of his 125th Christmas  Hamper delivery.  Was he stopping there? No!  His plan is to continue to deliver until the very end. After pausing to consider, he told me, “oh, I’ll probably get up to 145.  We’ll see.  It’s something that I really enjoy… why not?”

Where do you fit in?  Well, there are still lots of little things you can do to make the region a nicer place.  You don’t have to commit as much time as Oscar has, something as small as going out of your way to say hello to a neighbour or complete stranger can make a difference.  Or even taking an minute out of your day to ask if someone needs help if they seem lost can change a persons day.  Do you hold the door open for the parents with their stroller and little ones trying to get into the grocery store when you’re running errands?  It’s the little things that help add up to a big change.

One thing that we all struggle with  is time.  It’s hard to volunteer if you’re short on time.  I have a job, family and other obligations to meet – how can I volunteer?  Just this week we saw an example of someone putting their skills to use to volunteer, indirectly, at the House of Friendship’s Men’s Hostel.

A place for Rooks and Kings to make new friends.

Using his skills and time someone who needed to complete some community service hours made this chess table for the residents of the Men’s Hostel. John, pictured above, said of the table: “this beautiful table…will be a place where friendships and meaningful conversations will take place.”

Give it some thought.  Are there things that you like to do that might benefit others if you shared them?  Sharing them can make a difference to someone.  As we begin the final stretch of our 12days campaign, let us know what hobbies, skills or interests you think might benefit others.  Find us on Facebook, twitter and comment in the space below.  We’d love to hear from you.

Day 9: Being Santa

December 17, 2011

Today is day 7 of our 12day push to get people volunteering this December.  Mike, a BSW student who is doing a placement with House of Friendship’s Cramer House and the Emergency Food Hamper Program, was recently asked to lend a hand with a different program, Live and Learn.  You may have met him previously here, and like so many people, he decided to pitch in and try and brighten someone’s day.  This is his story:


Volunteers Pitching In at Christmas Hampers

December 16, 2011

Every December, volunteers pitch in to bag, box and deliver food for those in need of food assistance in our community.  For many, volunteering at House of Friendship’s Christmas Hamper has become an annual holiday tradition.  I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with two volunteers, Trevor and Doug, who have both made volunteering at the Christmas Hamper program an annual tradition.

Both Trevor and Doug started at Christmas Hampers as volunteer drivers, delivering the Christmas hampers, and they have been helping ever since.  Trevor is able to take some vacation time from his full-time job to work as the hamper dispatcher for the Christmas Hamper program, helping to ensure that the food is delivered to the hamper recipients.  Doug has become more and more involved over the years that he’s been volunteering.  Here’s what they had to say about their involvement with the Christmas Hamper program:

How did you start volunteering at Christmas Hampers?

Trevor told me: “I started volunteering at the Christmas Hamper program because of a man named Bruce Weber.  Bruce was heavily involved with House of Friendship, and he happened to be our youth leader.  He arranged to have our youth group deliver hampers.  That was in 1982.   For the first few years, I was mainly just delivering the hampers.  One year, I came in to pick up a route for delivery, but it was really busy, and Tony Bender (the program coordinator) asked me to step in and explain the process to the new volunteer drivers.  From then on, I have been setting people up with routes, and sending them out to do their deliveries.”

Doug explained: “I got involved many years ago when I brought my children with me to deliver hampers.  Every year after that I saw myself getting more and more involved in the project.  I now am here from day one until the program wraps up before Christmas.”

What brings you back year after year?

Trevor said: “I know that my circumstances are privileged.  I have an excellent support system, and I had all the opportunities when I was growing up.  Circumstances make it difficult for some people to get by, and a program like Christmas Hampers, helps people through those difficult times.  I have always felt that I have something to give, so I am doing so.  It is so easy for me to judge those living in poverty, and give up on them, but I think all of us would be surprised at just how hard being without can really be.”

Doug told me: “I believe so much in this project, a community-based project that satisfies a fundamental need for food.  I enjoy the variety of work that needs to be done.  There is something for everyone.  I also like interacting with the groups that come through here, and talking to the media about all the wonderful things that are happening at the Christmas Hamper warehouse.  I think that this is one of the greatest social service projects out there.  I can remember delivering a hamper to a young family, and I will never forget the way the young girl’s face lit up when we came to their door.  Doing the deliveries really helped me put a face to the need that exists in our community.”

These two volunteers are just a very small sample of the many hands that are committed to making the Christmas Hamper program possible.  Interested in joining them?  Give Tony a call at 519-725-2350.  We still really need drivers to help out. Are you already a Christmas Hamper Volunteer?  Let us know what volunteering means to you!  Comment here on our blog, post on our wall on Facebook or tweet at @HOFKW.

What the House of Friendship does to Pitch In

December 15, 2011

Trent, Christine and Colin get ready to Pitch In and share the first Turkey of the season

In the last 5 days we have been sharing stories of people who are getting involved this December and tips for getting your own volunteer journey started. (Read it here)

Today, we want to share a few more stories and ideas from House of Friendship staff.

At the House of Friendship (HoF), volunteers work closely beside us in virtually all our programs.  Did you know that HoF staff also volunteer and pitch in outside of their own jobs?  They do!  For some of us, (myself included) volunteering is what got us interested in the work that HoF does.  For others it is a natural extension of our desire to see the community be a better place and to continuously learn.

Christine told me:  “I volunteer with several local groups, with interests ranging from heritage preservation to my parish council. I have volunteered since returning from university some 20+ years ago, and remain grateful to the many talented and generous people who have taught me so much along the way.”

Have you considered that helping out can include things like preparing a meal for friends and reminding people that you’re there for them through difficult times?  Taylor at Charles Village shared with me: “My wife and I, and our friends are all making an extra casserole this week to give to a friend who has injured their hand. Because of a past personal experience we are aware of how difficult it can be to get by without the use of one hand. There is something profound about sharing food that you prepared with love. Any time of significant change or challenge is a great time to offer meals. It is a way that you can contribute something tangible during a time when things seem otherwise out of our control.”

At the Kingsdale Community Centre, staff person Fanny, volunteers  on the Board of Directors of MT Space and is the Artistic Director for Voices del Sur (a Spanish children’s choir) and Ecos del Sur (a Spanish adult choir).  She told me that she volunteers “because I have 3 passions, my language, music and children. I volunteer because it joins all these passions together. ”

And Bethany and Matt, co-workers of mine at the Food Hamper Program, have a long volunteer connection to the Christmas Hamper Program.   The brother and sister duo take time in the evening and on weekends to pitch in and help where they can, enlisting friends when possible and making it a family affair.  Matt told me “people come to volunteer with Christmas Hampers for many different reasons, but all of them seem to share the same excitement for helping people in our community during the holiday season.”

In previous years Bethany was able to spend more time with Christmas hampers, but the busy schedule here makes that difficult now.  She told me that “although I am not able to spend as much time at Christmas Hampers, I am still making an effort to deliver some hampers to people in our community. Volunteering at Christmas Hampers is a wonderful experience, where people come together every December, some who have been volunteering for many years, and others who are looking for something to get involved in during the holiday season.”

This is just a sample of some of the ways we at House of Friendship try and model the change we want to see in the community.  For us, volunteering and volunteers are a rewarding part of our lives and we hope that you’ll consider at least one way to make it a part of your life as well.  Let us know as we continue on our 12day journey of helping Kitchener Waterloo to get out there and volunteer.  Send us a shout out to @HOFKW on Twitter or post on our Facebook wall.  How are you pitching in?

Pitch in at the grocery store and online!

December 14, 2011

Today is the 5th day of our 12days campaign to get people to pitch in, and is a very busy day for the House of Friendship. Why? Well, today is the day that we started the distribution of Turkeys to the community – thanks to the help of many volunteers and the hard work of the Rotary Club.

Today is full of sharing, warm thoughts, and a lot of heavy lifting for us. For you, I’m sure it’s no different. We all want to do what we can to ensure our family, friends and loved ones know how much we appreciate them. For some that means getting the perfect gift; and for others it’s all about family get togethers, sharing a meal, a card or a kind word. With the holiday season starting to pick up it’s not always easy to find time to buy the gifts, bake cookies,  and sign all the cards for the ones you love while also managing various other tasks such as cleaning the house, working at your job, taking care of your children, and so on.

If you’re trying to find a gift for someone, this is the time of year when things can get extra stressful. The malls are packed with people, the days seem shorter and patience starts to wear thin. This could be why each year more and more people turn to online shopping to help ease the stress of going to the crowded shopping malls and hopefully save some time.

If you’re one of those people who are interested in online shopping options, I’m here to share some good news with you! Now not only can you shop at home in the comfort of your pajamas, but you can also do your part to pitch in and make a donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto or other charitable organizations while you shop. In order to make this happen, you need to visit this website to complete your online shopping. Here you’ll be able to buy anything from theatre tickets to sporting equipment to jewelry to dinnerware and so much more!  There’s something for everyone! Then each company will donate up to 50 percent of the purchase price to a charity.

However if online shopping is not your cup of tea, or you want to help out people locally, please keep in mind that there are many other ways to help those in need. You can volunteer your time or donate food, clothing, baby items, bus tickets, or money.  We have shared many tips and suggestions so far and you can find them all here.

Some of the most needed food items are being highlighted at various Loblaw chain grocery stores throughout the region such as Valu-Mart, Zehrs, No Frills, or the Real Canadian Superstore. You may have seen this image near some food products in your local grocery store:

This image is to help promote their annual “Extra Helpings Holiday food drive” program, which kicked off November 25th. Each time the event runs these stores are hoping to collect enough food and monetary donations to help fill local food bank shelves for the season. Any donations are appreciated, but please try to pick the same healthy food options that you would choose for your own family. But this in store promotion will be ending very soon!  The last day is tomorrow: December 15!  Can you still donate after the 15th though?  Of course, as usual, there will be a bin by the check out that you can drop food items off in. However the helpful signs probably won’t be there to help guide you.

Regardless of the way you choose to help out this holiday season, each action makes a tremendous impact to the work of a charitable organization and for the people in need of some extra help right now. Hunger doesn’t take a holiday and neither does the need for donations all year round. Even one can of soup can make a difference – it will be someones lunch or dinner – and a very tangible gift that you can make to someone during the month of December.

What are you doing to help pitch in?  Let us know on twitter and Facebook.  Did you donate a can of soup at your local grocery store?  Talk about it, tweet it, blog it!  Your actions will encourage others, and help make someones day while they struggle with hard times.

How youth can Pitch In during 12days

December 13, 2011

Why work for no pay?  Why lend someone a hand for no immediate benefit?

Not everything can be measured in how many dollars it gets into your pocket, and not all the good things in the world are immediately obvious.

Yesterday, we were talking about the tremendous food drive that Rockway Mennonite organizes each year.  Students, their families and the entire school work together to get food to people who need it during the month of December.  On top of this, they also visited our Christmas Hamper warehouse to sing to the many volunteers packing and picking up hampers of food to be shared with the less fortunate residents of Waterloo and Kitchener.

Rockway students pitch in with a little music for the Christmas Hamper volunteers

Today is the fourth day of our Pitch in for 12Days campaign, an effort to get everyone possible to lend a hand in some way, and help others during the month of December.  If you’re a young person in the region, you will soon have some free time on your hands as you enjoy your christmas break.   Why not spend a little bit of it volunteering?  There people like the Volunteer Action Centre who are happy to help you find the right volunteer job – you can find them on the web and even look through available jobs on their website here.

The rewards of volunteering are many.   If you’re a student, volunteer experience can help you learn about different issues in the community, they can also provide you a reference that you can use to get your first job, or even learn more about what interests you and help you decide what higher education to pursue once you graduate.

Looking for a little inspiration?  Why not check out local radio personality Carlos, who is doing 30 deeds in 30 days.  What is this all about?  Well, it’s an epic journey of volunteering that he is detailing on his blog here.  Each day he goes to a different place and pitches in.  You can read more about him soon, because he is going to help us share some turkeys this coming Saturday.  Recently, he visited our friends St. John’s and you can read all about it here.

So are you ready to pitch in yet?  By volunteering you help yourself and others, and make our part of the world a little nicer.  Are you the kind of person that thinks big?  Why not check out something like Katimavic? You can see the country and make a big difference.

So think about it.  You can let us know what you’re doing by tweeting at @HOFKW and by liking us on Facebook.  Be the change you want to see in the community and help Pitch In!