After 30 Years of Food Banking How Are We Doing?

February 5, 2016 by

We are rapidly closing in on the 1 year anniversary of adopting Link 2 Feed.  If you recall, we blogged about it last year and some of the implications of using it for the future.  Look forward to a bit of analysis next month as we consider a year worth of data and what insights we might gain from it about hunger in the region and how busy our program was.

Today I wanted to reflect on 2015 in general, which provides a nice opportunity to consider 30 years of food banks, basically, from their inception as a desperate measure to help out, to an established and complicated part of a very different society.

I want to narrow the focus down to the experience of the House of Friendship.  We have spoken in other posts about what food banks do, some alternatives and some implications of different ideas.  I want to sidestep that, and instead take a look at what emergency food assistance looks like for the us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Keep Paying It Forward In 2016

January 11, 2016 by

Happy New Year everyone!

Now that the Holiday Season is behind us and everyone seems to be getting back into their usual weekly routines I wanted to share some words from some of our Emergency Food Hamper Program Volunteers, as a way to offer some encouragement to those of you who have decided that 2016 will be the year of getting involved in your community!

Why Volunteer?

Maybe you followed our #12daysforgood campaign and saw something in the daily themes that resonated with you, perhaps you have made a New Year’s resolution to do something and volunteer because you are grateful for support you have received at some point in your life.  There are a million different reasons, but one fact remains: volunteering has many benefits, not just for others, but also for yourself! Read the rest of this entry »

Abundance expands the realm of possibility | Day 12 of #12DaysforGood

December 21, 2015 by

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-By Devon Krainer

When you open up the newspaper today, you’re confronted with dramatic headlines: the Syrian refugee crisis, stagnating economies, an aging population, spiking youth unemployment, budget cuts to social services, famine in Ethiopia, the list of 21st century challenges goes on. As consumers of this information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  

Many news sources focus on the negative. They talk about what’s bad in our world, as opposed to the good things that are happening every day. What if the media flipped the narrative? What if Donald Trump’s tactless statements didn’t make global headlines – and instead featured inspiring stories like entrepreneur Jim Estill, who contributed CAD $1.5 million to support refugee resettlement in Guelph?

Getting stuck on the negative isn’t just in the news – it can creep into our daily lives. During certain times of the year, especially stressful ones like the holiday season, I catch myself getting upset over things that are going wrong. An old friend cancels on dinner plans. A batch of cookies gets burnt. A visit with a distant relative turns unpleasant. It’s easy to perceive these everyday occurrences as disappointments. With a bit of effort, you can realize that these “disappointments” are actually essential to a full life. Upon further reflection, you can see that these unexpected events bring about unexpected good things. A cancellation creates space to do something new. Burned cookies are a great source of humour. Reaching out to a distant family member builds empathy, even if it feels a little uncomfortable.

This Saturday I visited my grandmother in Bellingham. She suffers from a borderline personality disorder that makes her quite mean to others, often without realizing it. Needless to say my visits with her are emotionally draining. Even though my grandma’s behaviour is cruel, I know deep down she treasures me seeing her. There is little point in me focusing on her negativity. Looking at the situation through the lens of abundance, I know my grandma and I share a bond. We accept each other for who we are. Through our conversations, I gain a new perspective and a greater appreciation of life, in all its glory and messiness. Getting stuck on the negative has less to do with what happens to us and much more to do with how we see the situation.

Seeing negative experiences through the lens of abundance transforms disappointments into opportunities for growth, learning and rebirth. When we perceive life as abundant, we create more potential for the impossible to be possible. Instead of asking ourselves why something is the way it is, we ask “why not?” Abundance expands the realm of possibility. It is rooted in values of optimism, faith and appreciation: integrating the ability to see the glass half full, the unwavering belief that others can fulfill their potential, and valuing each individual and experience as a unique gift.

If you’re inspired by abundance thinking, I’d recommend any of the following resources:

An asset-based approach: John McKnight and the Asset-Based Community Development Institute

Uplifting newsletter: Brain Pickings

Thought provoking podcasts: NPR

Curl up with a good book: The Happiness Project or Abundance: the future is better than you think

Academic fix: Stanford Social Innovation Review

Simple yet powerful concept: the Adjacent Possible

 

The deep meaning of solidarity | Day 11 of #12DaysforGood

December 20, 2015 by

A reflection on solidarity, written as part of the 2015 House of Friendship Campaign. “12 Days for Good” and published originally to theworkingcentre.org

By Joe Mancini.

“Love is a consciousness of belonging to another, of being part of the whole. To love is to be on the way toward integral wholeness, to live with an openness of mind and heart, to encounter the other – not as stranger – but as another part of oneself.”1

This quote is highlighted on the front page of The Working Centre’s December issue of Good Work News. It is from Ilia Delio’s groundbreaking book The Unbearable Wholeness of Being.

This quote speaks to the deep meaning of solidarity. Delio is a breath of fresh air in the theological world. Her spirituality embraces solidarity as a fundamental constituent part of being. She optimistically reminds us that our evolutionary role as human beings is to model and create “an integral wholeness of love.”

We human beings are just starting to grasp this tall order. We have come a long way, but the word ‘solidarity’ challenges us to our core.

Here at The Working Centre, we see solidarity, the daily contribution to the common good, in the actions of volunteers who everyday offer their skills and abilities to serve community. The work of our community is diverse from fixing bikes, to growing food, to sweeping streets, to cooking meals, to serving meals, to mopping floors, to making movies, fixing computers, wiping tables and washing dishes. Every action is an offering of solidarity, offered to support community and in that way, each action is a model of “an integral wholeness of love.”

These examples of Solidarity help us all to recognize the importance of participating fully in community. Solidarity teaches us to open ourselves to the wholeness of community.

1. Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, God Evolution and the Power of Love, Orbis Books, New York, 2013

Stand together to increase our impact | Day 11 of #12DaysforGood

December 20, 2015 by

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Solidarity comes from a feeling of unity where individuals have a common interest and often band together to make social change. Over the past 3 years I have had the privilege of working with a host of amazing people from key organizations in our community to address the issue of support for children and youth who disclose sexual or physical abuse and assault either as victims or witnesses. We have learned together how prevalent this is in our community and about the needs of these kids and their families. We have learned together that we can do better collectively and collaboratively in supporting them than we can do as individual organizations. We have learned together how kids, their families, their future employers and their communities can be impacted for a lifetime because of childhood abuse.

We are just a few months away from opening a Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) built on evidence based best practices. This Centre will provide seamless, coordinated support for more than 1000 kids under 18 who are victims or witnesses of physical or sexual assault or abuse and their families in one location. It will be a child and youth friendly, safe, comfortable and confidential place where dedicated professionals with child specific skills will investigate disclosures of assault and abuse and provide support to the kids and their families regardless of whether charges are laid.

The Partners standing together to help create this Centre in Waterloo Region include the Child Witness Centre, the Waterloo Region Police Service, Family and Children’s Services, the Crown Attorney’s Office, the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre (through St. Mary’s Hospital), Lutherwood and many other agencies in the community will be involved as well.

We believe that children and youth should be able to grow up in our community without the threat of abuse and violence and that while the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre will not eliminate the painful process that is the reality of being a child victim, it will help them and their family endure it and heal.

Standing together we will exponentially increase our collective impact with child victims and witnesses and shine a light on the issue of child abuse in our community.

Today I am asking you to stand with us, and be a part of making social change by supporting this work and challenging the social norms in our community that can cause us to turn a blind eye to the sexual and physical assault and abuse of kids.

To find out more, stay connected with us through our website www.childwitness.com and follow us on facebook 

 

Use your Do-Gooder energy to help someone Thrive | Day 10 of #12DaysforGood

December 19, 2015 by

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Thriving is something we think a lot about at Supportive Housing. We provide shelter for 94 individuals on low income, who also benefit from the varied types of supports the buildings also offer. But we aim to provide much more than that- to not just espouse the language of Belong and Thrive, but to truly walk it every day. To live and breathe and truly BELIEVE that there is a better way to live than to merely survive. To believe that we have incredible potential as human beings: potential for creativity, for kindness, for support, for love.  And to believe that when our physical needs (food, shelter) AND our emotional/spiritual needs (community, belonging, being heard and supported) are met, we then have incredible potential to fully become our true selves and to gift the world (and ourselves!) with our presence.

We asked tenants in the buildings what THRIVING means to them and heard some great responses:

-Working together in community
-Going to take fresh air breaks and walks outside each day
-Being able to be fully myself, and to be happy
-Cultivating my creative side
-Acting with self-compassion so I can give myself a break!
-Learning to express myself, and to share that with the world
-Setting my day up in the morning to ensure the optimal success
-Thriving means moving forward…

 

“For me, Thriving has a lot to do with the space that I’m in- if you’re in a space where people don’t share the same ideas as you, about growth, and going forward- this can hinder your ability to thrive. So finding that community is essential.”

“I feel like I have been thriving this year, by taking care of myself and reaching beyond what I thought I was capable of before. I’m trying to better myself for my kids, so they have a better lead to follow than I did”…

Thriving means moving forward…

In thinking about spreading the theme of Thrive in the community, we all spoke about how important it is to identify what makes YOU thrive: what is it that you need in your life to really come alive and to thrive day to day? Take a few minutes to write that list out, and keep it somewhere nearby so you can be reminded of it often. Then, pay it forward! Use your Do-Gooder energy for the day to help someone else Thrive, or to remind someone of the importance of Thriving in their life.

 

 

Inclusion is about ALL of us | Day 9 of #12DaysforGood

December 18, 2015 by

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-By Cheryl Ewing

When asked to participate in the 12 Days for Good campaign, I was a bit reluctant as I believe that it is best to just do good and not talk about it but as I watch the news and see how disenfranchised so many people are, it seems to me that by celebrating our ability to work together as a community, we may start a wave that could change the world. All change starts with a single step, so this is it for me.

I found a definition of inclusion that seems to reflect my own experiences:

  • Inclusion is about ALL of us
  • Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together.
  • Inclusion makes the world our classroom for a full life.
  • Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community.
  • Inclusion is about our ‘abilities’ – our gifts and how to share them.
  • Inclusion is NOT just a ‘disability’ issue.

I grew up in a small northern Ontario railroad town and still value the best of a small town feel, knowing and caring about the others in your community. Perhaps this helped develop one of my core philosophies – it is the responsibility of everyone to make their community reflective of what is important to them. You can’t expect others to do it. I learned that you will feel as though you belong to a community if you get out there and participate.

Being very shy, I learned that the arts are a wonderful and safe way to express yourself. Through theatre I was able to transform from a shy, introspective person into a person who could speak to large groups with the passion of my convictions. Because I found myself through the arts, I continue to make that my main focus, but I am also intensely interested in people and the world and through my connections with the Rotary Club of Kitchener I have project managed the Canadian contribution to a tri-country project in Nogales Mexico for over a decade. I have had far greater return from this project then I have put into it. I now have very dear friends in both the US and Mexico, people I would never have met if I had not been willing to give of my time. I now feel as though I have a home in Tucson Arizona, Nogales Mexico as well as Waterloo Region. I am part of a larger community that respects and values me for what I contribute. I feel included.

This has been possible because I was able to find people who were welcoming and willing to include me. Waterloo Region has demonstrated its ability to be inclusive over and over again. Years ago as a folk dancer with the KW Multicultural Dancers, I performed for new immigrants and worked with the annual festival. You could trace discord within the world by the origin of the latest wave of immigrants to our region. Our interest in stepping up as a community to include the latest refugees is a reflection of how wonderful this community is. However, the latest research from the KW Community Foundation’s Vital Signs report indicates that we may have become complacent. Some of our residents do not feel as though they belong. So, what are we doing to change that perception?

Today, as I walked in my neighbourhood, a stranger waved and said good morning. That really lifted my spirits and made me feel special. It struck me that it could be that simple. Acknowledging that we share this community and that each of us has a part to play in making it better. That we need each other and no matter what our economic or educational status, we are all richer for welcoming others. So, if you do nothing else today as you think about inclusion, take a moment to say hello to someone, particularly if they look frazzled or lonely. That simple gesture may change their perception of our community.

If you are feeling isolated, look for something to do in an area in which you are comfortable. It will be hard at first, but you will find that your shared passion will help start conversations which will lead to feeling like you are part of a small community.

 

Lifting our Community to New Heights | Day 8 of #12DaysforGood

December 17, 2015 by

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-by Chris Martin of Leadership Waterloo Region

Leadership Waterloo Region aspires to be the definitive provider of leadership development opportunities in the region. Our unique experiential program challenges people to view their community through a different lens and foster connections with active and emerging leaders creating positive change.

The 12 Days for Good campaign speaks to us for two reasons: We exist to serve and strengthen the individuals in our community that go on to influence and inspire positive change; and, many of the leaders in this campaign have graduated our program.

Inspiring that change means placing our trust and confidence in the leaders that make Waterloo Region truly great. The graduates of our CORE program lift their own organizations and communities up to new heights.

They are on the front lines; they are at the forefront of leading change in our community every day. They are the busy professionals who take the part-time opportunity we provide to hone their leadership skills so when they return to their organizations they can apply what they’ve learned and inspire others. We have the utmost faith our 400-strong graduate leadership network.

Seeing the impact that people like Joseph Fung (LWR ’06), Craig Haney (LWR ’05) WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin (LWR Grad ’04), and Berry Vrbanovic (LWR Grad 01) make every day in the lives of the residents of Waterloo Region inspires us to continue our work.

The skills acquired from our part-time, 10-month program last a lifetime. The series of connected and focused workshops, delivered by world-class experts in their fields, are designed to develop leaders from all three sectors: business, social profit, and government. Our program is specifically designed for the busy professional!

We will continue to put our faith in the current and emerging leaders and change agents of the Waterloo Region as we look forward to working with the best and brightest your business wants to recognize, develop and retain.

Let someone know they were “Born for Greatness” | Day 7 of #12DaysforGood

December 16, 2015 by

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-by Sarah Martin

I remember like yesterday the first summer I was hired to be a summer camp director. I sat down at my desk overwhelmed by everything I would need to do. I had one year as a leader under my belt and somehow, someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to hire me for this director position. My supervisor checked in with my that day and I decided to be honest about my fears and reservations. To my surprise he looked at me and without hesitation said, “You’ve got everything it takes to do this job and do it well, now stop doubting yourself and get to work.”

I’ve been blessed over the years to have a lot of really wonderful people believe in my gifts and abilities. There’s something so powerful about someone speaking words of confidence and faith into me, especially in those moments of insecurity. The #12daysforgood theme of ‘Faith’ celebrates having complete trust in someone or something. I want to “pay it forward” by taking a moment to make sure my younger brother and sister know that I have faith in them.

Scott – You have so much to offer the world. You’re amazing ability to always see the best in people will instill hope and confidence in the kids you work with as Child and Youth Worker. Don’t doubt your ability to make a difference, dive in and you won’t regret it. I believe in you.

Emily – You are one of the most loving and empathetic people I’ve ever met. People feel positive and encouraged when they spend time with you. Don’t hold back, you have so much to contribute to each person you meet and each community you become part of. You were born for greatness.

Join me in this simple #12daysforgood gesture by letting someone know that you believe in them, that they were born for greatness. To help you join me, I’ll be passing out these “Born for Greatness” buttons at Kitchener City Hall Wednesday December 16th from 12:30-1:30 pm. Come grab a button and let someone know they were “Born for Greatness”. << TWEET

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“Optimism is the faith the leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” ~ Helen Keller

Follow Sarah’s 12 Days for good on Twitter!

 

The Christmas Bureau – A collaboration that includes everyone in holiday celebrations

December 15, 2015 by

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This fall, speaking with individuals who were registering to receive a Christmas Hamper it became very clear how important the program is in the community. One man, a former chef, was very excited to be receiving a turkey that he could share with his family. You could clearly see the joy and excitement he felt at the thought of sharing his love of cooking with his family over the holidays.

Making sure over 4000 households have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the holidays wouldn’t be possible without the Christmas Bureau. The Christmas Bureau coordinates the efforts of local organizations that provide assistance to help people have a better Christmas. Every year local organizations, faith groups, community groups, individuals and families come together to make sure everyone in Waterloo Region has a wonderful holiday season. This collaboration works together to make sure that donations are assemble and distributed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This project brings to life the collaborative spirit that organizations in the Food Assistance Network demonstrate throughout the year. The Food Assistance Network is a system of more than 100 community agencies and food programs, whose services support the basic food assistance needs of children, families, couples, individuals, and seniors–every day. They work together to provide services that make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy food.

At Christmas time, this collaboration results in something truly special – Christmas in a box, prepared and delivered lovingly by volunteers. The House of Friendship, Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and Salvation Army with other community partners work together to gather donations for special Christmas hampers full of food and toys to families in Waterloo Region.

 

All the Fixings for Holiday Dinner

It starts with a delivery of large proportions, not in Santa’s sleigh, but in The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s Truck. This year over 60,000 pounds were delivered from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to the MTD Warehouse that has been generously donated as the temporary warehouse for the Christmas Hamper project. This is combined with donations from the House of Friendship to create Christmas Hampers.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s role is to make sure that programs participating have all of the food that they need to help any family that needs support. Over 60% of the food for the Christmas hampers comes from The Food Bank.

The role of House of Friendship is to coordinate the assembly and delivery of over 4,000 hampers to assist approximately 11,000 people in need. This involves finding donated warehouse space, recruiting and training hundreds volunteers.

Teams of volunteers work over 2 weeks assembling hampers. Some volunteers have been volunteering for years creating a sense of camaraderie as they prepare the packages. Others have been given the afternoon from local businesses to lend a hand in preparing the packages.

The Christmas Hamper has evolved over the years as staff and volunteers have listened to what the community needs. Last year Tony Bender, who coordinates Christmas Hampers, asked the recipients what they could do to make the hampers more special. They identified more fresh fruit would be welcome.

This year’s Christmas hampers are very interesting, a great variety of items – canned items, but also fresh food onions, carrots, oranges, apples, potatoes and of course some Christmas treats!

Each year the efficiency of the hamper process gets better. Each year processes are tweaked to make sure donations are processed and distributed as effectively as possible.

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Wednesday marked the first night that hampers were being delivered to the community. Every hamper is hand delivered to recipients homes, complete with well wishes from volunteers.

 

Gifts Under the Christmas Tree

Christmas wouldn’t be quite complete without children opening presents. The Salvation Army of Kitchener Waterloo provides families with toys to make sure there are presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Each year they provide over 5,500 toy hampers for children of all ages. The great importance of these donations is seen when parents come to pick up their toy hampers. Reactions can be anything from tears, laughter or smiles.

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Celebration, Generosity and Gratitude

I don’t think there is a better example of how we as a community come together to help everyone in Waterloo Region feel a part of holiday celebrations.

The collaboration of the Christmas Bureau demonstrates many truths of this community. It shows that Waterloo Region is a place that is focused on working together to provide important services and to make sure what is given is stretched as far as possible to make sure all are included.

Most importantly it demonstrates the impressive, overwhelming generosity of members of our community who donate money, food or their time to make sure all families have a joyful Christmas.

Without members of the community donating their time, funds and food the Christmas Hamper programs simply couldn’t be done. It is the whole hearted generosity of this community that means all of us in Waterloo Region can come together to celebrate the holidays.

From the families of the Christmas Bureau to yours – Thank You and Merry Christmas.

Kate MacDuff

Food Assistance Network Coordinator

Food Bank of Waterloo Region