Archive for September, 2014

Volunteer Profile: Jane!

September 29, 2014

For five and half—if not more!—hours every Friday, Jane helps to anchor our Friday volunteer crew. She seems generally to come with Luke, another Friday stalwart. Like others who have been profiled here, she possesses a kind and generous spirit, a willingness to truly engage with those around her and pitch in wherever needed.

But the fact that we have so many wonderful volunteers, who have wonderfulness in common, should not distract from the fact that each is special, their contributions unique. Since she started last April, Jane’s made many different contributions to our program, but more importantly, to the many families we support. When another key volunteer went on maternity leave, she jumped feet first into our “meat department:” our freezers are organized; our meat is bagged and weighed; and when a large family comes in at closing time with less-than-usual dietary requirements, nobody’s worried!

And though it’s harder to quantify (more valuable than 600lbs of Halal meat? 800lbs? All the Halal meat in the world!?) Jane’s infectious laugh and smile make this a happier, more vibrant place to be. In so doing, she models for us a way of walking with those we serve without judgment, and makes it easier for us to support our neighbors.

How did you hear about House of Friendship, and the Food Hamper Program?

I originally began volunteering with House of Friendship’s Christmas Hamper program, where I was in turn introduced to the Emergency Food Hamper Program. I also had a friend that previously worked with House of Friendship.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at EFHP?

One of the main things I love about volunteering here is the other volunteers. I also greatly enjoy working with our program patrons. Helping others brings me joy and happiness.

What has been your most memorable moment volunteering here?

It’s hard to pick out particulars, because we interact with many people every day. But it’s always rewarding when I have time to connect with a grateful patron and work with them as much as possible to meet their particular needs.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I genuinely enjoy doing anything I can to help out. I mostly work with the meat now and if I had to pick one area I would say that this is my favourite because I get to learn new things.



Jane (and Candace) make sure everyone gets enough of the right meat–or vegetarian protein substitute–with a smile!

How has volunteering impacted your life?

I really get great satisfaction from being able to help others. I feel so blessed to be able to volunteer at this stage of my life. I just love working here. I also love that I am able to volunteer here with my daughter and partner and be able to share this wonderful experience with them.

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

In the past I have volunteered in areas such as the Aids Walk, Terry Fox Run, Manulife Ride for Heart and with my Church. Currently I volunteer at the Mennonite thrift shop every Wednesday morning where I work in the warehouse. I also volunteer with the Out of the Cold program one night a week from November to April where I work in the kitchen.

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

I greatly enjoy spending time with my family. My biggest hobby I would say is reading. I also love gardening in my garden at home.

Volunteers like Jane do a great deal of the wonderful community building work here, which makes it possible for us to support so many others in our community. Since she started, we’ve packed over 30,000 hampers (she alone has volunteered 310 hours!).  

 Thanks Jane!

“I Have Always Found a Friend in Music”

September 25, 2014

Today we have a post by Martin and Ashley W from the Men’s Hostel sharing details of a recent event organized by staff and residents

“One of the marvellous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.  When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Charles St. Men’s hostel held its third open mic night at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Thursday August 28th.  The open mic began with a vision to bring people together to share their talents and build a sense of community. We hoped to enact, in a very obvious and practical way, the more abstract HOF value of inclusion, which states that “We believe everyone has a seat at the table.” So we set up tables–thanks for the tables, St. Andrews!–and got to barbecuing, making sure we had enough food and seats for everyone from the community who wanted to eat, or sit and take in the festivities.

Residents from the Hostel and community volunteers were there to assist with food prep and serving.  It was a wonderful experience to see people coming together to help each other and make a contribution even in times of personal struggle.  We were grateful to walk beside these volunteers and participants during this experience and work in partnership as peers in bringing fun and sense of belonging to the community.

Once bodies were nourished, we started the soul-enriching work of making and listening to music.

Guests and participants of all ages came from House of Friendship programs and the community to share.  Over 125 people joined us at St Andrews to enjoy the local talent.  A fantastic local band including a resident of one House of Friendship’s programs volunteered to play for the event. They started off the evening setting the musical mood as one of relaxation and fun.  As the meal came to an end the floor was opened up for anyone to participate in sharing their talents and all in attendance were lucky enough to enjoy some of the talent from our supportive housing residents who brought the church to fits of laughter with their creative jokes and some singing.

The band was excellent in making everyone feel a sense of belonging. In one beautiful and improvised moment, they extended the hand of friendship to a resident who felt inspired to contribute a vocal solo, by using their instrumental talents to compliment his vocals and even including some back-up vocals. And in that moment the delicate joy that happens through shared music sat around us all.

All in all it was a wonderful night and we were inspired by the level of commitment, dedication, and involvement by participants of House of Friendship programming in the prep and running of this community event.  We really could not have done this without the generous assistance of the people we serve and are grateful to be able to work for an organization which encourages such a sense of community. We would finally like to thank St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for making this event possible by allowing us to use their space and graciously being available to help with set up.  We would also like to thank everyone who volunteered or assisted in any way and everyone who simply came to enjoy the event and be with us in this time of sharing and community building.

Volunteers Profiled: The Band of Johns

September 22, 2014

Volunteers Embody the spirit of Sunnydale and House of Friendship

Many Canadians wake up early each Thursday to get ready for work. Such are my Thursdays this summer, but not everyone shares my schedule, not exactly anyway. I was fortunate to meet three wonderfully “atypical” individuals one Thursday at the Sunnydale Community Centre.

Their names are John Thiessen, John Paterson and John Wilken, or, as they prefer to be recognized, John 1, John 2 and John 3, respectively. Those numbers refer to their seniority as volunteers at the Sunnydale Community Centre. Each John is extremely different and together they form a sort of modern day Band of Robin Hood; the Band of Johns if you will. However, there is one major distinction between the two brotherhoods; unlike the Band of Robin Hood, the Band of Johns use donations and their time to aid those in need.  Their dedication to ensuring that the dietary needs of others are met, along with their compassionate and altruistic nature, shows through in all aspects of their volunteer work at Sunnydale. (more…)

Surprising Variety

September 19, 2014

Fall is in the air and our summer students have by now started their classes and gotten settled into their new routines.  Today I would like to share a retrospective post that Jessica drafted about her time here at the House of Friendship Emergency Food Hamper Program.

What were your first impressions and expectations?

One of my first impressions walking into the Emergency Food Hamper Program was that the staff and volunteers were so friendly and everyone was very welcoming. All the staff and volunteers seemed to really enjoy being there which was great to see, since that isn’t always the case in a work environment. On my first day the Monday order was just arriving and was introduced to sorting and putting away items. Although I was a little lost on how things worked everyone was so helpful and patient with me. Staff and Volunteers worked seamlessly to put the order away as a well-functioning team. The volunteers, like the staff, were extremely knowledgeable about what needed to be done. An organization such as this relies heavily on great volunteers and we’re lucky to have so many of those. After the first morning at the Emergency Food Hamper Program I knew I was going to have a great summer working here. (more…)

Volunteer Profile: Luke!

September 16, 2014

It’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers. Though each is different, and brings special skills to our program, they are connected by their commitment to Food Hampers, and the fact that they have decided to donate–usually at least once a week–their time and energy to us. Without them, we would be unable to operate as we do. This is worth repeating: without them, we would be unable to operate as we do.

And though it’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers, it can be hard sometimes to capture the depth of their commitment and contribution to our program, and our broader community. This is certainly the case with Luke, who–if we didn’t make him go home!– might stick around till midnight, connecting with patrons and volunteers alike, providing steady support and understated guidance. No matter how busy we are, he energizes those around him, and challenges us to improve our quality of service. Since he started in April 2013 Luke has volunteered 335.5 hours, but that isn’t the half of it!



Volunteer Profile: Pauline!

September 4, 2014

Pauline started volunteering at the Food Hamper Program last October. Since that chilly afternoon she has become our on-call superstar, regularly coming in to help on short notice, despite being in school; and volunteering over 190 hours in the process! Pauline is obviously committed to our program: she goes to great lengths to get here, and when she’s here does whatever needs doing with a smile and a laugh.


I convinced her to sit down (and take a break—no small feat!) to chat about her time here…

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

My first trip to the Food Hamper Program was to pick up a food hamper. I also knew of some other people who had used the program and then applied to see if I could start volunteering here.

Is volunteering important to you? Why?

Yes! And for lots of reasons. By volunteering here I am directly giving back to this community, which has at different times supported me, and that feels good. I wanted to make a contribution like this to the community.

At the same, volunteering has impacted my life in important ways. When I started here I was in a depressive state, but program staff and other volunteers welcomed me, and as I’ve settled into this space I’ve increasingly felt valued, and been a valuable part of this program.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

The people, and being part of something that supports others. Like I said, staff and other volunteers welcomed me so warmly, and sincerely, that I’m always eager to return. I also really like connecting with folks who are here for a hamper, and trying to meet their specific needs, especially when they have kids. I try, when I can, to pack the best hamper for each family, and you’d be amazed how a bit of special attention can go such a long way. A few smiles stick out in my memory, reminders of the value of small acts of kindness and consideration.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

All of them! I spend lots of time packing hampers, but that is really just a small part of what goes on here—the last, most visible step in a much larger project. That being the case I’m happy to sort food, clean, or get in Raymond’s way—to make him smile, of course! Whatever the day requires.

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

I’ve helped out with my kids’s sports teams and with the Optimist and Lions clubs of Kitchener and Stratford, but this is my first regular volunteer experience.

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

Many of my waking hours are spent at the arenas of southern Ontario with my daughter’s ringette team. Or reading, playing baseball, swimming and biking. I like to keep busy!

In closing, Pauline re-stated her commitment to, and affection for the Hamper Program. As she put it, “I’ve so obviously loved coming here that it’s convinced some of my friends to join me!” Her infectious enthusiasm brings joy and humour to the Food Hamper program—which is great, because we’ve packed over 25,000 hampers since Pauline started volunteering here!