Archive for the ‘potato blitz’ Category

Where Will You Go, If You Walk With Others In Our Community?

November 28, 2014

“House Of Friendship remains committed to working with our community and walking with our most vulnerable members to ensure we pursue long-term solutions to homelessness, poverty, addictions, and mental health.”

John Neufeld, HOF Executive Director

Welcome to my walk with House of Friendship, my name is Marie Morneau.

My walk started some 13 years ago when my daughter Rosemarie started to volunteer at the Kingsdale Community Centre. Back then we were in portables, not the big beautiful building we have now!

Six years ago my husband Denis and I started to help by volunteering at Kingsdale, on Wednesdays. Denis drives the van to the Food Bank and brings back a load of food to Kingsdale, where we repack it and put it away. On Thursday we take that food and set it up for distribution between 1:30 and 3pm for people residing in the Kingsdale area. (more…)

One potato, two potato…

March 8, 2012

…three potato, four… five potato, six potato, seven potato… more! It is officially the beginning of March, which means that our annual February Potato Blitz here at House of Friendship has wrapped up its formal events. For most of February, the main office and many other HOF programs has been whirring with excitement and tasks to do in order to prepare for the three fundraising events that are held every year, during which people can donate either cash or potatoes to help us reach our 200,000 lb goal. The third and final event, the Community Potato Luncheon, was held February 24th at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.

A few days before the event itself, Sandra (the head cook at the Charles Street Men’s Hostel) had begun talking with me about things that I could do to assist her on the day of the lunch. She had asked that I arrive at the Hostel at 8:20am on Friday morning, to help load up the cargo van with supplies and food. She had pre-warned me about the amount of things that we would bring from the Hostel; however, I don’t think I was expecting it to nearly be everything but the kitchen sink. There were pots, roasting pans, vegetables, nine pans of shepherd’s pie, napkins, potatoes for baking, potatoes for chopping, desserts and dessert trays, cream and sugar, aprons, tea towels…and that’s not likely even half of it. It was amazing to see how organized and thorough Sandra was in making sure we had everything we needed for the day. With the help of a few staff and a volunteer named Jeff who helped us throughout the day, the cargo van was loaded in minutes.

Then it was time to drive (carefully and slowly around corners, so as not to shift or spill the contents in the van) to the church. A few minutes later, Tony and I hopped out of the van and met a handful of people (hostel staff, Eby Village tenants and volunteers) to help unload the truck, and bring everything into the church’s kitchen.

As time quickly approached 9:00, volunteers came excitedly into the kitchen, ready to get to work. Hard-working and dedicated, Sandra had it down to a science, and literally had a job for everyone. Some volunteers immediately jumped into chopping vegetables, making vegetarian chili, cutting and buttering dinner rolls and filling water jugs to put into the cooler until it was time to put them on the tables. Others filled salt and pepper shakers, filled dessert trays, put table cloths on the tables before setting them and helped make soup. Volunteer Kelly Daly, who has made soup year after year for us, as well as his helper for the day – another woman named Sandra – spent the morning making delicious potato leek soup.

Bill, a volunteer who is dedicated to helping out at the potato lunch year after year, diligently peels potatoes to put in soup and other dishes. Thanks for your help, Bill!

Time seemed to fly by as we all pitched in to make the food for the event. There was light-hearted chattering and joking among everyone, happy to be working together again for another year’s potato lunch. At 11:30, Sandra gave us the okay to put water jugs on the tables, and soon after, mostly everything – except for the baked potatoes – was ready to be taken into the serving room. Around this same time our executive director, John Neufeld, entered the kitchen with his camera, snapping candid photos of the volunteers hard at work. We waited until the baked potatoes were finished and then the volunteers who were going to be serving food to our 170 guests began to man their stations.

Hungry and joyful guests were served food by volunteers at two different buffet-style tables, before these guests headed to their seats to enjoy their meal.

At the end of the lunch, John said a few words of thanks. Local churches, key volunteers for the potato blitz, the “Get ‘R Done Crew” (a few dedicated individuals who went around to the different supermarkets on the day of the Blitz to pick up hundreds of pounds of spuds), and many others were thanked. Another fun part which also happened at last year’s lunch was the 2nd annual “Soup Idol”. Eight contestants prepared soups which were tasted by a few judges, to see which one appealed most to their taste buds. After much deliberation, the Soup Idol trophy was given to one of our own staff here at House of Friendship: Alissa Attwood, from Kingsdale Community Centre. (Congratulations, Alissa!)

These four men made up the "Get 'R Done" crew, who, on the day of the Supermarket Blitz, collected potatoes. (Left to Right: Kelly Daly, John Lambert (aka "King Spud"), Glenn Stewart and Ed Ruppe). Thank you so much for your help!

It is also customary for an update to be given on how we are doing at reaching our goal of 200,000 lbs of potatoes. Before the lunch, we had the equivalent (in both cash and spuds) of 188,000 lbs. After the lunch, because of peoples’ generous donations upon arrival, we had raised the equivalent of about 203,000 lbs of spuds, allowing us to surpass our goal!

Thank you so much to all of our amazing volunteers (over 35 of you!) who helped with set up, food prep, money counting, serving, clean up, and many other jobs. And to our generous guests around the community. Thank you all for giving of yourself and your resources to help our neighbours and friends in need. We couldn’t have made this Potato Blitz a success and we would definitely not have raised 203,000 lbs of spuds without you!

Sweet Potato, who is one of our two Potato Blitz mascots, comes to greet and thank all of our satisfied and happy guests. Sweet's sidekick, Spuddy, took time to recuperate from his tiresome tours of the supermarkets during our supermarket blitz.


February 17, 2012

Potato Blitz mascot Spuddy enjoys a photo op at your local FreshCo

The German word blitz has a lot of different meanings.  What exactly is a potato blitz?  Is it some sort of food? Are they going to be falling from the sky?

Well, you don’t have to worry about getting a helmet. And on the bright side, it will involve eating – but I’ll get to that in a little bit.  For us at House of Friendship, blitz means a short, focused effort.  As you may already know, the  Potato Blitz is a one month push to collect as many potatoes as we can so that we can share with the people who turn to us for help.  With me so far?

In just 15 days (between Don Cameron Potato Night and this last Saturday) many, many people have stepped up, pitched in and shared a gift with us:  a gift of potatoes, some kind words of support and a lot of smiles!

I’ve written about Don Cameron Potato Night already.  Last Saturday, it was the second major blitz event, House of Friendship’s annual Supermarket Blitz.  The Supermarket Blitz is a one day community wide effort, where volunteers, staff, friends and family visit local grocery stores and ask their neighbours for some potatoes to help the less fortunate members of our community.  What a day!

In the space of a few hours we received over 22 skids of potatoes from shoppers at 26 different stores across the region!  When combined with the financial donations that were made as well, we collected the equivalent of 102,000 pounds of potatoes!  When we add that to the donations we accepted at Don Cameron Potato night we are only 12,000 pounds away from our goal of 200,000 pound goal.

House of Friendship staff and volunteers take a break in front of some of the 22 skids that were collected during the annual Supermarket Blitz

What’s left now?  We are always accepting donations of more potatoes and other food items.  More info on how you can help here. Every single spud will make a difference to the people we serve, who, are coming to us in record numbers.  This last January was the busiest month in the history of the emergency food hamper program, with 3491 hampers going out our doors to fill empty kitchen cupboards in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Each potato and dollar that is donated this month will help us put food on families tables for most of the coming year. Thanks to Jay West, a local food retailer in St. Jacobs, we will be able to store the spuds in the right conditions so they are still perfect when we need them in the coming months.

Are you planning on attending the community potato lunch next Friday?  It will be between 12 and 1pm, Friday February 24th at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kitchener.  Last years lunch (post here) was a huge success and you can look forward to more great company, and the second (critically acclaimed) soup idol contest where local’s try and win the favour of the judges with their best potato soup recipe.  This year we expect some serious competition. (Do you think your soup recipe is a winner?  We’re still looking for people to compete – you can contact Jenn at 519-742-8327 for more info.)

Don Cameron gets results

February 3, 2012

Volunteers and Kitchener Waterloo can move mountains.  Mountains of potatoes that is! How do we know this?  Well, because of the Don Cameron Potato Night of course!

It was, as usual, a record breaking event!  Rangers fans did it again, bringing in 4,800 lbs of potatoes and giving $6,394 in cash donations.  Thanks to a special purchasing agreement with a local supplier we are able to purchase potatoes at an average rate of 15 cents per pound, which means that Rangers fans alone raised the equivalent of 47,425 pounds of spuds, matching last year’s record effort!

Volunteering at the night, Colin shared with me afterwords, “I was excited to see the level of community support House of Friendship has.  There are so many areas of the community we rely on for support and the folks coming to the game represent another one of those corners. It was just amazing to see how many folks do bring out potatoes.”

But there’s more good news.  Zehrs markets donated $5,000 and another 4,500 lbs of potatoes to Don Cameron Potato Night for a total contribution of 37,833 pounds of potatoes.  This means that in one very special evening, Don Cameron Potato Night raised the equivalent of more than 85,000 pounds of potatoes! (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?



People helping people – the rising cost of food and House of Friendship

May 23, 2011

Many of us at House of Friendship are starting to wonder how rising food prices will impact the number of demands being made by the people we serve, or how many new people will need to start using any one of our programs for support. Currently many people don’t have a lot of money for the essential groceries after paying for things like shelter and clothing. Thus as food prices continue to rise it’s likely that the supper tables and pantries of low or fixed income households will suffer the most. So on that note, and as I mentioned in my introductory post in this series, I want to take some time to share the thoughts of John Neufeld (our Executive Director) and Tony Bender (Community Services Director) on this developing issue.

John Neufeld

John had an interesting approach to answering how rising food prices may impact House of Friendship. Overall House of Friendship provides a wide variety of programs so we encounter a wide variety of requests and various people needing support. According to John, “the role of House of Friendship is to listen to the needs of our community and then respond. Those needs may be a result of increasing food costs, lack of housing, immigration challenges, increased mental health and addiction issues, or a host of other factors. House of Friendship responds by bringing awareness to our community of the challenges our neighbours are encountering and then helps mobilize the community to respond collectively. We are fortunate to be in a region that has a history of responding with compassion and leadership. House of Friendship believes strongly that there is no “them,” there is only “us.” We are all part of the same community and one person’s loss diminishes all of us.”  This is the basic philosophy that we’ve been trying to operate under since House of Friendship was established back in 1939, and all of us are guided by it as we go about dealing with the many situations that people experience within our community. (more…)

The side of potatoes you haven’t seen… and the rising cost of food

May 20, 2011

Annually House of Friendship utilizes well over 220 000 pounds of potatoes within all of our programs. Therefore a successful Potato Blitz campaign is important for many different programs, patrons and services. You may remember some of the stories Allison shared from various events of the Potato Blitz back in February, but don’t worry – I’m not here to repeat those. Instead I’m going to shine a new light on potatoes. We’ve talked about the nutrition of potatoes and how valuable potatoes are to the diets of our patrons, but we haven’t talked about the cost of potatoes. The cost of potatoes has a significant impact on the fundraising efforts of our Potato Blitz drive each February – and thus provides a glimpse at the side of potatoes we haven’t shown you yet! (more…)

It’s Time to Celebrate!

March 10, 2011

It seemed like we were just wrapping up Christmas Hampers when the Potato Blitz hit. Now, it too is over. Friday, February 25, we hosted the Community Potato Lunch at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and officially wrapped up a month of potato frenzy. This event, like all the events in this year’s Blitz, was a roaring success! You helped us raise another $3,100 so that we can purchase another 20,000 lbs of potatoes. This brings our grand total to 183,000 lbs of potatoes, which is 13,000 lbs above the campaign goal! (more…)

A Spud-Filled Warehouse

March 7, 2011

Below are some photos from the warehouse at various points since the Potato Blitz began. It seems like the abundance of potatoes in the Food Hampers’ warehouse is never-ending!

A skid of potatoes after the Don Cameron Night.

Full cardboard bins of potatoes after the Supermarket Blitz.

A few days later, the cardboard bins have been restocked with more potatoes.

Those mountains of potatoes are, of course, already being used. A few days ago, as a patron was filling out the checklist of food that he wanted in his hamper, he paused to ask me a question. With his finger resting on the picture of potatoes, he said, “I have been craving my homemade potato fries. Do you have potatoes today?” (more…)

In praise of Potatoes!

February 18, 2011

Potatoes are one of the things on everyone’s mind at House of Friendship right now, since we’re in the midst of our annual Potato Blitz. During the various events throughout February House of Friendship hopes to collect enough potatoes or financial contributions to meet the needs of our various programs throughout the year.

So far Allison has covered some of the blitz events and how many potatoes they have collected,  but you may wonder, why are potatoes so important to House of Friendship?  The answer is simple: they are a chance for us to talk to someone about their neighbours who are less fortunate than they are.  Even if it is only for the short period of time it takes them to hand us a 10lb bag of delicious Yukon Gold potatoes, they have been able to put themselves in an other’s shoes, and find a way to help them. (more…)