Jim Erb’s Remarks at HOF Barnraiser Award Luncheon


The Waterloo Region Barnraiser award is presented annually to an individual or community group that contributes to the region’s tradition of inspirational, collaborative achievement. House of Friendship is the 2014 recipient of the Barnraiser award! We are happy to share here remarks from Jim Erb, who nominated House of Friendship for the award. 

When I was a young lad of 12, I would visit House of Friendship on most Sundays.  My uncle was the director of House of Friendship, and he and his family lived on the third floor of the hostel on Charles Street in Kitchener.

The Sunday routine seldom changed – church, lunch with my grandparents at their home in Waterloo and then off to House of Friendship. Our family would help my aunt and uncle peel potatoes and carrots, cut corn off the husk, help fold bed sheets, all in anticipation of the coming week.   Mabel Steinman was the cook – calm, unassuming and fully dedicated to what she considered her call to serve. I remember the large metal cooking containers on her stove, bubbling and steaming as she prepared and preserved food for the week ahead.  I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Mabel many years later through work.  After she retired, Mabel was a regular volunteer in the kitchen, where else, at her church helping to prepare funeral lunches, and I can confirm that as a charter member of the funeral director’s tasting circuit in church basements, she made delicious egg salad sandwiches served with the same hospitality I witnessed at House of Friendship.

Growing up in the security of the small village of Wellesley, I remember being so surprised that there were people who didn’t have a place to call home, get a warm meal or have a bed to sleep in at night.  It made a lasting impression on me.  Fast forward 60 plus years – I’m no longer living in a small rural village, but now in the “big city” where I see people sleeping on the streets – the need is now more public.  They’re dressed the same as the men I observed when I was 12 – in many respects, it seems things haven’t changed.  However, most important for me, the mission of House of Friendship hasn’t changed, in fact, it has become stronger.

House of Friendship is a pillar of compassion in our community.  Its core values of compassion, inclusion, dignity, justice and hope, continue to bring people together to extend the hand of friendship to our neighbours in need.  It’s is a simple concept, but one that is as relevant in today’s complex world as it was when I was 12.

As I have contemplated volunteer opportunities over the years, there are three questions I have asked myself as I decide where to commit my time and resources.  Does the organization provide  food when people are hungry or don’t have the money to purchase it, will they supply a bed if someone has no place to sleep that is safe and warm, and will they extend their table to welcome everyone.

We’re all here today because we know House of Friendship meets and surpasses these three basic human rights of our neighbours, who, not because of their personal choice, but often because of circumstances they cannot control, are dependent on organizations like House of Friendship, you and me, to give them a hand up.

And so on your behalf and also on behalf of our community, I want to say thank you to Joe, Mabel Steinman, my Uncle Orval and Aunt Doris, and all those who have worked and volunteered at House of Friendship over the years.   In particular, I want to acknowledge the work and determination of some of my very best friends, who like Mabel, consider House of Friendship their call to serve. As staff and volunteers, they now willingly carry the torch to continue the vision started 75 years ago by showing compassion, modelling what it means to be inclusive, honouring dignity, advocating for justice, delivering hope, and most important, serving a simple plate of hot food, providing a warm bed and having a table that is big enough to welcome everyone.


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