Archive for December, 2011

Rockway students Pitch In during 12days

December 12, 2011

Today is day 3 of our 12day campaign! Perhaps you saw the Record article about it over the weekend?  If not, you can find it by clicking here.  It has lots of great suggestions on ways you can pitch in this December and help your community. Their suggestions range from donating some good condition winter clothing, to gifts for children and the gift of food for one of your neighbours struggling with these grim economic times.

Earlier this morning, the gift of food was what Rockway Mennonite Collegiate had in mind. They are a local school with a long history of helping the House of Friendship and local people through a massive food drive each year.  You can read all about it on their own website here, and see the ambitious goals they have set since 2009.  This year was no different and they successfully gathered 24,000 cans of food.  That is about 80 cans per student!

Students line up to drop off donations that they have collected

A long time fixture of the House of Friendship, Mr. Weber (a former board member and long time Christmas Hamper volunteer) was on hand to help pickup the food. Parents who were dropping their kids off (as well as food donations) got into the act and helped students and staff get the food to our waiting trucks.

A Rockway parent gets into the spirit of things and helps get some food to families in need

As you can see, pitching in doesn’t take too much effort, and even a can of beans or a box of pasta can add up to a big difference for someone who needs help this time of year.   This donation will help our Christmas Hamper Program bring a little cheer to Kitchener Waterloo.

Be sure to follow us on twitter (@HOFKW) and Facebook, and to let us know how you are pitching in this December.


Soup for the soul – pitching in to help volunteers help others

December 11, 2011

Today may be Sunday for you, but for us at House of Friendship, it’s day 2 of 12days, during which volunteers deliver Christmas food hampers and distribute turkeys to families in need.  The Christmas Hampers Warehouse is quiet today, but tomorrow it will be in full swing, packing and shipping Christmas food hampers.

Because it is Sunday, I want to highlight a very important way that many people in our community, of many different faiths,  support the work of Christmas Hamper Volunteers as they share the gift of food with our neighbours in need.

Each year, for many years now, different faith groups choose a day that Christmas Hampers are being packed in our Christmas Warehouse and prepare a delicious soup lunch for the hardworking volunteers working on the assembly line.  This is always a highlight of the day, and an important way of supporting the people who give up their time and a lot of their energy to help others.

One volunteer with the groups told us, “I know the importance of always, in formal and informal ways, appreciating and thanking our volunteers.  Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  Feeding them during a shift is just one small way of showing our thanks and appreciation for their time and efforts.”

For others, there is a powerful spiritual message in the labours of the volunteers, as another group member shared with us that, “The Christmas Hampers that are distributed by House of Friendship are a wonderful incarnation of the spirit and meaning of Christmas, of the generosity of God’s gift at Christmas. And as I believe Dickens said, it is at Christmas when human wants and needs are most keenly felt.  So of course we must support the Christmas Food Hampers!!!”

What is the reward for making soup for 30 or 40 people?  We asked the groups for some suggestions and recipes and our friends at Erb St. Mennonite Church told us, “Even though one person could prepare the soup, it is a time of fellowship and sharing for several people to assemble on the evening before the soup making day and prepare all the ingredients. It is a community building event for us.  It is one link in the chain that binds our faith community with the broader community. We can show our support for the work of House of Friendship in a tangible way.”

As these volunteers show us, if you are wondering where to start pitching in to help others, look no further than your own faith community.   There are always many different ways to help your community and others in need.

House of Friendship offers heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in our many programs.  At this time of year especially, your efforts to pitch in and make a difference are an inspiration to us all.

But we can’t leave a post about sharing soup with others without sharing in turn a recipe.  So with thanks to our many volunteers (both serving and receiving) here you go!

Corn Chowder Soup for Thirty:

  • Start with a big pot or caldron
  • Fry two pounds bacon (chopped)
  • Add a 3-lb bag of onions, chopped
  • Cook until onions are transparent.
  • Add two large bags frozen corn.
  • Add two liters chicken stock, six to eight liters half and half, or milk, or any combination thereof.
  • Add salt & pepper to taste, and generous amounts of Italian Seasoning Mix.
  • When the soup is hot (but not boiling), slowly add one large box of instant mashed potatoes to thicken.

Enjoy! And remember to share with us your stories and comments on how you pitch in.

100 hampers with Oscar and 12 days of pitching in!

December 10, 2011

Today is the first of 12days!  12days of delivering Christmas Hampers and handing out turkeys to families in need.   Oscar is one of the people who will be delivering Christmas Hampers.   He and the 600 other people who will pitch in are incredible people with incredible stories.  More than a few have been with us for 25 years and others take time off work to help out over the month of December.

If you’re looking at this on Saturday, Oscar will be busy delivering hampers as you read this sentence.  When I spoke with him earlier at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper warehouse, he talked about his very ambitious goal of delivering 100 Christmas Hampers in the next 7 days. Last Friday he was getting an early start and heading to HOF’s Christmas Hamper Warehouse for his first load.  Saturday, he was hoping to delivery 25 before the end of the day. He is a man with a plan!

In the first three years Oscar estimates that he delivered approximately 70 hampers each year. Last year he made a goal to beat that number – and he did that by delivering about 90 hampers! However, this year Oscar is taking his personal challenge one step further with the hope to deliver over 100 hampers! That’s a lot of routes for long time volunteer Trevor to coordinate, but Oscar will do all of these with a smile!

Volunteering with Christmas Hampers is a lot of fun for Oscar, because he’s usually joined by groups of friends or his wife. But it’s not all about spending time with friends; Oscar values volunteering with Christmas Hampers more than that: “Helping out gives me a chance to deliver food that people wouldn’t otherwise have for the Holidays. It’s almost as if you’re bringing them a Christmas present.”

People are genuinely appreciative when someone delivers a Christmas hamper, similar to what you may see here at our program. But everyone reacts differently; sometimes people invite you in for coffee and others barely want to open the door. And sometimes you almost get a parking ticket for your vehicle hanging over the sidewalk when it’s snowing late at night and you’re struggling to make sure you have the right address.

In the end you never know what to expect when you’re out delivering Christmas hampers, but all the smiles in the end are what keep Oscar volunteering year after year. Thank you for your support – it would definitely be hard to do all these hampers without your hard work!

Now that you know how Oscar is pitching in for 12days, let us know how you are pitching in.  Send us your stories and comments – help us spread the word: PitchIn for 12days!  You can also follow us on Twitter and find out more about 12days! on our Facebook Page, YouTube channel and web site.

Pitch in for twelve days in December

December 9, 2011

“How can I help?”

This is a question that we often get, year round, at the House of Friendship.  What sets us apart as a community is how often we reach out to others and lend a hand.  We know this because we see it every day in the actions of our many volunteers.

November and December are a time of year that brings us to reflect on family and the many good things in our life, and naturally our thoughts go to others who may not be as fortunate. Just yesterday, one of our volunteers brought his mother in to volunteer with him because of the increased need at this time of year.  You may be wondering, how can you pitch in if you’re not already volunteering regularly or know someone who is?

I’m glad you asked!

For the next twelve days the House of Friendship is going to do its best to encourage people pitch in to make Waterloo Region a better place, one kind act at a time.

Pitching in doesn’t need to be something big. Lots of little acts add up to a huge difference. For example, shovel your neighbours drive way, hold a door open for someone at the mall, donate some food at the grocery store check out, or smile and say hello to a stranger the next time you’re out walking your dog.  If you’re feeling ambitious and have some time on your hands you can help other people do some good work.

Volunteerism in this region is something that the Volunteer Action Centre champions 365 days a year.   They should always be the first place you look to start a new volunteer experience.  You can find them on the web here or reach them by phone at 519-742-8610.

Their mission is take people like yourself who are looking to help and connect you with an organization that needs you. They were able to share a few suggestions with us to get you started (but you should still give them a call as they will find more opportunities as time goes by).  They are the following:

Aids Committee Cambridge Kitchener Waterloo and Area need people to help with their holiday dinner (contact Lynn 519-570-3687 Ext. 313).

Family and Children Services is looking for donations of new toys and winter clothes.  You can drop off at 65 Hanson Ave, Kitchener (parking off Ardelt Ave).

Grand River Hospital is looking for gift wrappers ( or 519-743-4300 x 7276).

Multiple Sclerosis Society is looking for gift wrappers (contact Kim 519-569-8789).

Ray of Hope Dream Centre is looking for help serving people in need (519-578-8018 x217 John Hill or Ken Wideman  519-497-6052).

Salvation Army is looking for volunteers for their annual kettle campaign (Denis at 519-894-9781 or and toy distribution (Major Jane Sheasby 519-745-4215 or

Canadian Blood Services is always looking for life saving donations of blood, consider attending a clinic near you.  You can find one in your area by clicking here.

And last but not least, the House of Friendship Christmas Hamper Program is looking for people to pitch in food to help make this a better Holiday Season for everyone.  The program officially gets underway today.  House of Friendship is expecting to deliver around 4000 hampers by the end of next week.

Volunteer drivers are needed for deliveries Monday December 12 to Friday December 16.  Volunteers are also needed to assist with packing from Monday December 12 to Thursday December 15, especially Thursday December 15.   You can get involved with the Christmas Hamper Program by calling Tony Bender at the warehouse: 519-725-2350.

Members of the public can also sponsor a turkey or hamper for a family in need. Donations to the Turkey Drive can be made on-line at or mailed or dropped off to the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home at 171 King St. S., Waterloo. Donations of non-perishable food items are also welcome and can be dropped off at the warehouse

Stay tuned to this space, twitter (@HOFKW) and facebook for more information on volunteering, inspiring stories from people who are pitching in for 12 days and stories of the positive impact people like you are making in Waterloo Region.

If you decide to Pitch In during the next 12 days let us know!  Tweet #PitchIn and #12days and spread the word!

One bowl at a time

December 8, 2011

Lately we’ve tried to share a basic ingredient for soups with all of our hampers: Campbell’s beef broth. It’s a perfect time of year to receive this type of donation because the days are getting colder and we’re all looking for inexpensive and satisfying meals to help keep us warm. Also having soup broth available allows people to make their own soup creation, instead of eating the various canned soups that we typically have on hand.

The soup broth was offered before people left with their hamper. but since many people are unfamiliar with how to use soup broth we included recipes tip sheets to help people learn ways to use this great ingredient. These tip sheets included anything from substituting soup broth for water when cooking vegetables or rice, freezing in ice-cube size portions to add moisture when re-heating leftovers, or recipes for homemade soup. But we’re not the only ones trying to share the warm feeling of soup with the community.

Janet Uffelman, Sandi McCrory, and Norma Weiner are the Soup Sisters. These women are working hard to bring more soup to Waterloo Region. After attending a social evening out in Toronto, for another branch of the Soup Sisters, these wonderful women decided to start a program branch of their own.

Their not-for-project project got off the ground near the end of September, after they were able to establish a partnership with The Culinary Studio. Now these girls are in full swing of producing many bowls of soup each month. Each bowl of soup is prepared in a state-of-the-art professional kitchen by people who are learning to develop their passion for cooking, and by those who are trying to pass on their acquired skills.

Their culinary efforts are going to support Reaching Our Outdoor Friends (ROOF) and Marillac Place. Both of these agencies are trying to provide shelter, supportive services and advocate for youth who are struggling with a variety of issues and seeking a better future for themselves and/or their children.

If you’d like to get involved in supporting of the work of the Soup Sisters, you can attend one of their evening events for a cost of 50 dollars. The evening runs in the style of a cooking class where participants will produce approximately 150 to 200 bowls of soup. But that’s not where the fun ends! After working hard to create all this soup, the evening will follow with the enjoyment of a light meal and a wine tasting. For information on booking an event, please click here.

However if you’re not able to attend one of their events, there are other ways to support the work that the Soup Sisters are doing. To find these, click here. And just remember: each donation, small or big, is one bowl closer to another satisfied belly in our community.

Volunteer Spotlight: Leonard

December 7, 2011

Leonard has been volunteering at the Emergency Food Hamper program since January 2010, giving over 250 hours of his time.  In 2011 alone, Leonard has already volunteered 90 hours!  Leonard has such a willingness about him, helping with whatever is needed in the warehouse.  Thanks for your continued commitment to the EFHP, Leonard!

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“I heard about House of Friendship through someone I knew through my doctor.  That guy had volunteered at the Emergency Food Hamper before, and recommended that I give it a try.”

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

“I love it here.  I look forward to coming here every week.  I love knowing that what I am doing here is helping people who are in need in our community.  It makes my day.  The people that volunteer here are all unique in their own ways, and I have enjoyed getting to know them.”

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“I can usually be found stocking the shelves in the warehouse, but I like to help with other odd jobs.  I am really used to stocking the shelves, I know where everything goes.  It took a while to figure where everything went, that’s for sure!”

How has volunteering impacted your life?

“Volunteering is very important to me.  It just seems normal to me.  I am so happy that all four of my children are now actively volunteering at different organizations.  I guess you could say it is in our blood!”

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

“I am retired now, so I have more time for volunteering.  I volunteer at the hospital, helping people find where they need to go.  I also volunteer at the Salvation Army, sorting through the clothing and other donated items.  On occasion, I volunteer at the Red Cross, helping to package supplies to be sent overseas.”

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you aren’t working or volunteering?

“I love to spend time with my grandchildren.  I also enjoy playing cricket and soccer for fun.  I get a lot of joy from travelling to new places.  Some of my favourite places I have travelled are Europe and Asia.  I would love to live in Europe.  A few years ago, I was able to travel to five different countries in Europe.”

Let’s share the warmth

December 2, 2011

As snowflakes will soon begin falling down from the sky we’ll all soon become more accustomed to cuddling up under a blanket, perhaps with a warm beverage and some good company to talk to. Well in the spirit of enjoying everything possible from a warm cup of tea, let’s think about how you can spread that joy throughout Canada. Let’s share the warmth!

By this, I’m not referring to the coat drive program that just wrapped up at Salvation Army. Instead sharing the warmth is about giving the gift of tea – and all it takes is one simple click of your computer mouse.

Red Rose Tea Company has launched a campaign for consumers to donate a pot of tea to a registered Canadian charity. Here are some examples of the charities that are awaiting your support:

And as I said before, all it takes is one simple click of your computer mouse. Currently more than 10 000 pots of tea have been donated to these charities! Please click here to make your pot of tea go farther.

What is your morning routine?  I know a lot of people who start their morning with a warm cup of coffee or tea.  I always marvel at the people snaking around the drive through windows at any restaurant that sells coffee.  It’s one of the little things that makes life a little more pleasant, and can be a source of comfort when life is stressful.

It is also important for people to share. In our culture and many others, offering a guest a cup of tea or coffee is a natural and expected part of welcoming someone to your home. Our driver, Salvador, will often share stories of people he has delivered food to, who ask him to share a cup of tea with them because he is the only person they will talk to that week. So, as Red Rose says: “Canadians are known for their warmth of spirit and their love of tea…let’s prove it!” So please take a few minutes to share your love of tea with others from coast to coast.

“This will get us through till next week”

December 1, 2011

Working at the Emergency Food Hamper one day, I had the opportunity to briefly talk with a mother and her young daughter who were in need of a food hamper. When she had waited her turn and had reached the front desk, “this will get us through till next week,” was one of the first things she said to me.

Lots of people have come through our Food Hamper doors hoping that the food they receive here will carry them through their food shortage crisis, whatever that might involve. Last year alone, there were 32,042 hampers given out. Not having the ability to feed her own children was shocking to her. As she worriedly gazed at the far wall, I could literally see the thoughts that must have been swirling through her head. How long will this food emergency last for my family? Will I be able to pay this month’s rent and daycare costs while carefully balancing other necessities like food?

“My pay is coming at the end of the week, so we can make it through till then,” she hesitantly said to me while glancing down at the floor.

A lot of the people who walk into our lobby each day share similar stories with the staff here at Food Hamper.  To this day, I wonder how that woman and her daughter are doing. Did they make it through till next week? For many, lacking food is a temporary, yet potentially chronic, problem.  This is where the Food Hamper program steps in and tries to bridge this dangerous gap at least till next week’s pay comes in.