Archive for January, 2012

2012 is a year to be smart here!

January 30, 2012

In the past I took some time to highlight some of the functions of our lobby or waiting area, which you can read about here. But oops – I missed something: our bulletin board! Our bulletin board is a relatively big part of our lobby that we try to fill with social services event listings, any new updates to social assistance recipients or low-income individuals, job postings, and current rental housing lists.

Recently I set up a new display on our bulletin board that focuses on one of the twelve themes in the 2012 Smart Consumer Calendar. Here’s a picture of it to give you an idea:

Though you can't read all the words it gives you a small glimpse at all the tips I've tried to share.

Debt is something that most people living in North America are familiar with.  Credit cards bills, mortgages and student loans all pile up and need to be paid each month.  For people who lose their jobs these bills keep coming.  Many people are employed seasonally, so a lack of snow this year also means a lacking paycheck. (more…)

Swimming in a sea of potatoes

January 27, 2012

At the beginning of each year we rest briefly, celebrate the past year, take a deep breath and try and catch up with our many volunteers who are sprinting ahead of us, leading the way and talking with our community about something very simple, yet very important.

What is that?

Potatoes.

(more…)

Tuesdays, À la Social Service Intern

January 24, 2012

To continue with a bit of an inside scoop on my work as the Social Service Intern with House of Friendship, here is a post describing a typical Tuesday for me.

At 8:30am, I arrive at Eby Village, another one of House of Friendship’s programs. Built in 1990, this is an affordable, supportive housing program for single men and women. The tenants and staff work together to make Eby an amazing place of community. Here, I get the privilege of hanging out with the staff and tenants of the program, and working to support the tenants in different areas they may need support.

The staff at Eby Village are always joyful and fun to be around. The Eby office is always full of energy and laughs, while remaining a place for tenants to come to receive support. The two support workers, Walter and Ashley, work to support tenants in various areas. (more…)

Thank You Rotarians!

January 23, 2012

January is going to be over before we know it!  But, last week, some people got together to celebrate a job well done this last December.  I’m talking of course about the Kitchener Conestoga Rotary Club (website here).

It’s no secret that the House of Friendship couldn’t do the work they do without the community.  The Christmas Hamper Program is no different, and depends on volunteers, donations and a lot of hard work.  The Rotary Club has been a big part of the program these last six years and with their annual Turkey Drive to support House of Friendship we are able ensure that thousands of people have a less stressful December.

Rotarians gathered at a luncheon last week to reveal the results of the Drive in the form of a cheque presentation to House of Friendship, and to thank and recognize the many businesses and individuals who stepped up to help make sure every Christmas Hamper request was met.

Surpassing last year’s record amount, the Rotarians raised $267,301.41(gross) for the 2011 Turkey Drive. When Club members realized that they were within $450 of hitting the $1 Million mark for the Turkey Drive over its first six years, in true Rotarian fashion they quickly passed the hat to get them over the top. They did so inspired by the stories of generosity behind the 2011 Turkey Drive. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy

January 18, 2012

Amy has been volunteering at the Emergency Food Hamper program since the beginning of October.  She is up for any task that is thrown her way, whether it be bagging bulk food items or packing the hampers, she’s game!  Here is what Amy had to say about her time here so far:

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I was looking for a place to volunteer, so I googled ‘volunteering’ and House of Friendship (HOF) popped up.  I had heard about HOF before, but I wasn’t sure what all the organization did.

 What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I like all the people that I get to meet here, while packing hampers or working in the warehouse.  I also just like helping in general.  It feels good to do something like this.

 What’s your favourite job at our program?

My favourite job would have to be packing the hampers.  It is nice to be able to hand that food off to people that really need it.  I also really like to see what goes into the hampers.  Every time that I volunteer, there are always different things that go into a hamper.

 How has volunteering impacted your life?

Volunteering has really opened my eyes up to the different situations that people are in.  It has also given me a glimpse of the needs exists within our community.

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

I am currently volunteering once a week at a program run by Christian Horizons called Circles Café.  Circles Café is an art program.  I just completed a graphic design program atFanshaweCollegeinLondon, so this is good experience for me as I look for something in my field.

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

In my spare time, I enjoy playing the guitar.  I started taking guitar lessons about two years ago, and I just recently stopped taking them.  I am still learning to play the guitar, but I like to play all kinds of music.  I also am really into fitness and graphic design.  I love to watch all kinds of movies, from comedy, to romance and even thrillers.  I am movie lover for sure!

Thanks Amy for taking some time to let us get to know you a little bit better!  Your hard work here at the EFHP is much appreciated!

Calling the Shots

January 17, 2012

Have you seen a poster like this around your office? Or have you seen it on a television commercial? It’s a popular piece of media to remind us one of the many ways we can prevent spreading illnesses such as colds and flu’s throughout the community.

However getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of influenza to yourself, your co-workers, your friends and family, or anyone else you interact with throughout the day. Although the flu shot cannot protect you against the common cold, there are a number of benefits to getting immunized each year. (more…)

A (Mon)day in the life…

January 2, 2012

As promised, this entry is the first in a series of posts to share with you a taste of what it is like to be the House of Friendship Social Service Intern. I thought I would break these entries into smaller posts by day, so as to not overwhelm you with too many stories. So, here you have it: a Monday in the life of the Social Service Intern.

I am generally at the Emergency Food Hamper Program all day on Mondays (as well as on Thursday mornings and all day on Fridays). When I first arrive at 8:30 in the morning, I am always greeted with a friendly hello from all of the staff and volunteers. For the first two and a half hours, I get to work with the other volunteers and staff who are working in the warehouse. Here, I do things like stock shelves full of items that we provide to patrons – anything from soup, yogurt and pasta to diapers, baby food and dog food. Or, I help bag potatoes or carrots into smaller bags that will be shared in the food hampers. It’s always interesting to see the variety of items that are donated to us, as we receive donations from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, Loblaws, and individual donations from members of the community. I have found that since working in the warehouse, I have learned so much about food itself – such as what different types of exotic vegetables are used for, or when foods are good until. (For instance, did you know that yogurt is typically good for 14 days after its best-before date? Who knew?) There’s never a dull moment in the warehouse, and the staff and volunteers are always chipper and ready to serve others with joy.

Recently, I finished learning about our intake process and getting some more experience doing intake. We open our doors to the public at 11:00am, and at that time, I am helping at intake. After a while of working in intake to help with the morning rush, I move back and forth between intake and packing food hampers.

Intake involves sensitively welcoming patrons as they come and getting some basic information from them to pull up their files (see Matt’s post here).  I find this part of the job fascinating, for a number of reasons.  Something that I find myself reacting internally to is the diversity in the  ages of patrons who come to use the food hamper program, and the broad scope of life experiences  from which each one comes.

I’ve heard the saying “curiosity, rather than judgement” before. That string of words continues to play through my mind during my experiences here at hampers. Say, for example, there is a patron who may have already had 9 visits with us in a year instead of the “theoretical limit” of 6, and wants another hamper today. Suddenly, I have a choice in front of me. I can grow impatient and frustrated, wondering why this patron doesn’t seem to abide by our guidelines. Or, I can choose to act with grace and patience, perhaps remaining open to the different reasons why this person may be in more dire need for emergency food than just the six hampers a year can satisfy. I can gently explain to this patron how we can help today, and maybe ask more questions to determine what sorts of other resources he or she could access for food in the future.

Often, in asking for a patron’s birthday to pull up a file, I learn that there is a man or woman who is exactly, or near to, my age, or the same age as my siblings (as Mike had experienced, and written about here; or as Allison shared in this post). Suddenly, the person on the other side of the counter is no longer just the person on the other side of the counter. In our short interaction, I see myself in them. Or I see my best friend, or my twenty-year-old twin brothers. It really is amazing how personal it makes things, and how much it makes me appreciate how my life has turned out so far. It just so happens that I have enough money to live comfortably in an apartment with enough food to satisfy. It just so happens that life events have happened, for me, in such a way that I do not find myself wondering where my next meal will come from. But when I am looking at a woman on the other side of the counter who is around my age and who has three kids plus herself to support, I find myself overwhelmed. I realize again and again how easily my life could look different. How easily the tables could be turned. Because really, I require food as much as a patron who comes into our program does. We are both equals in life, in society and in our necessity of food. The only difference is the amount of available resources that each of us has.

These are just some of the experiences through which I am learning a great deal at House of Friendship. There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue to learn exponentially more through the rest of my time here.