50 Years of Sharing in Our Community

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Since 1964 House of Friendship has been sharing the gift of food with its neighbours in need during the Holiday Season. A great many people have, over the years, been the specific parts of House of Friendship, doing the specific work involved in making sure folks in our community get Christmas hampers and toys.

Tony is one of the many dedicated Christmas hamper workers, whose steady and ongoing commitment to the Program keep it running smoothly, and growing!

His first experience with the Christmas Hamper Program was in 1977.

9 - Tony

Service, in style, as always.

 

“I think back then it was in the basement of a store on Krug Street. That year we maybe gave out about 800 hampers. Linda Worth was directing things, she was the only staff person, at the time she was the director of the Hostel, and Live and Learn. House of Freindship was pretty small at that point. At the time I joined other volunteers in delivering food. Volunteers were and continue to be the main reason why things get done here.”

A few years later, Tony got a job at House of Friendship after graduating from the University of Waterloo and was once again involved in Christmas Hampers on the staff side of things. Over 35 years later he is still here and each year has the privilege and challenge of setting up and running the program with a team of volunteers and staff.

Community in a box

So what is Christmas Hampers? Most straightforwardly, it is a box of food that people in this community can receive to help through difficult times around Christmas and New Years. Thanks to the hard work and fundraising of the Rotary Club of Kitchener and Conestoga the program gets a big boost each year and through them, people receiving the hamper can also access a turkey. In addition to the gift of food, people with children can receive toys and other gifts from the Salvation Army who helps co-lead the program each year.

Tony says that “this year we are projecting that we will pack and deliver approximately 4400 Christmas Hampers. These hampers will provide food for approximately 11,500 adults and children.”

A network of care

Schools, local businesses, volunteers and hundreds of connections to the community both large and small answer the How? of Christmas hampers. Without them, hampers would be smaller, or empty, and wouldn’t ever get delivered.

In the early days more than 30 local schools carried out food drives to fill the Christmas boxes. Supplemental food was purchased from local businesses. Like all volunteer and community projects some of the people involved changed and some stayed the same. In the mid 80’s House of Friendship and other organizations working with people helped found the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. Many local schools did food drives for Food Bank, who in turn shared food with Christmas Hampers. The grocery stores that food was purchased from changed names, and changed places. But the common thread that goes through this story is the importance of the entire community and how they come together around this program each year.

“We’ve been so fortunate,” Tony shared with me. “Some people have been involved for over 10 or 20 years. People like Trevor Bauman a really great guy, he takes a week off from work to help out. Then there are people like “Busch” who has been at the front of the hamper packing line for 20+ years. Else and Howard Herrle always help organize, and Emergency Food Hampers own Oscar Weber always goes above and beyond to deliver hampers each year. The list goes on.”

The things you remember

So after decades of being a part of this complex web of community, volunteerism, friendship and hard work what makes the biggest impression on Tony?

“We always get a lot of people calling or writing to say thank you, but what really sticks with me are the stories of people who have come here from other communities seeking refuge. People coming here with nothing after they have fled violence. It’s overwhelming.”

Want to be a part of this great story?

The two biggest needs right now are to deliver hampers in December, and to help with distributing turkeys after the hampers start going out in the community.  Gail can help you get involved on the driving side of things.  She can be reached at christmashampers@houseoffriendship.org or to help giving out turkeys, speak to Dawn at dawng@houseoffriendship.org.

 

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