Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Hampers’

50 Years of Sharing in Our Community

December 1, 2014

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. (more…)

The Power of 12

December 10, 2012
Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Last Friday, volunteers in north Waterloo were busy.  They came together, many of them only seeing each other at this time of year, and got to business assembling boxes of food for people they will never meet.  Christmas Hampers officially got into gear.

Inspired by these volunteers and the hundreds who will follow them each day until the 25th, House of Friendship invites YOU to get involved in our community to the power of 12.

Welcome to 12 Days.

The idea is simple: do something, anything, in the next twelve days to help someone else.  These can be 12 big things, 12 little things or even just one thing. We`re not asking you to join in on what House of Friendship is doing (although you are very welcome to) we simply want to share the enthusiasm and drive that we see around us and encourage others to make a positive change.

This year, since it is a traditional time of gift giving, we are organizing our own efforts around 12 different “gifts”:  the gift of Justice and Equality, Food, Home, Community, Health, Joy, Knowledge, Friendship, Warmth, Diversity, Hope, and finally, Celebrating the Good!

Each day we will share some tips, suggestions, stories and inspiration that you can use to share that gift with our community.

Follow #12daysforgood on twitter, on Facebook and come back here for daily updates.

Day 1: How do you wrap the Gift of Justice?

In my University days, I found myself sitting with some co-workers for lunch, enjoying the nice summer weather.  We were doing door-to-door sales at the time and the spirit of the work place was making money and self reliance.  You were responsible for your success or failure.  Every day, before hitting the streets, it was drilled into us: keep pushing, stay confident, work hard and you will do it.

As we dug into our lunches, the conversation turned to a homeless man we had interacted with earlier before starting work. One of my co-workers observed “If I was on the street, I would never stop, I would clean myself up, get a job and get off the street in a few days.”

If only life was that simple. (more…)

12days of Pitching In

December 21, 2011

It has been an extraordinary 12 days of giving and sharing in Kitchener Waterloo.  Over six hundred volunteers have helped the House of Friendship these last few weeks to move a record number of Christmas Hampers out into the community and into people’s cupboards.

Who are these people? Schools, individuals, businesses, friends and coworkers have collected food, packed it up and driven it out to people.  Others have endured the elements to hand out more than 3000 turkeys and ensure that people have something to share with friends and family as they sit down together this weekend to celebrate each other and to look forward to the coming year.

On this blog we have shared some inspiration, ideas and suggestions on how you can do something big or small to make this region a little nicer for everyone.  We hope that you were moved to action and we would love to hear how it went for you.  Haven’t taken the plunge into volunteering yet?  Why not make it your new years resolution to get out there and volunteer?  There are lots of great places to help you get started.

What good is there in volunteering and the collective efforts of these hundreds of people who have given some, or in some cases, all of their time these last few weeks in the service of others?

Our Executive Director, John, asked these same questions recently.  He shared with us these words:

“We have now finished delivering 4081 “little gifts” in the form of Christmas Hampers.  Delivering these gifts this past week has been an eye-opening experience for me, bringing home the importance of people having appropriate housing, being part of community, accessing addition treatment, and being nourished with food and more.  At the end of the deliveries, I came home with many more questions, and very few answers. What good will this one Christmas Hamper do? What do my efforts matter? Individual efforts can at times seem so futile but when I think about all of our individual efforts combined, I feel hope!”

“My hope is rekindled each time I attend one of our program’s Christmas celebrations.  What a gift to see the transformation of individuals as a result of safe and affordable housing, recovery, life skills training, community building, support with parenting, and a listening ear. So many great stories! Stories that we share with our community to inspire and challenge them to Pitch In and make a difference so that hope can always be present in our community.”

Each day at the many programs of the House of Friendship and the countless non-profit groups that work with people in need, volunteers and hope transform people’s lives.  By sharing tangible goods like food and clothing, or intangible things like a listening year, a caring word and positive attitude you can make a real difference to someone.

Yesterday I spoke with Oscar, who called to update me on his efforts to deliver at least 100 Christmas Hampers.  The last time I had spoken with him, he was already at 125 hampers.  Yesterday he told me he had just finished his 151st delivery.  In response to my words of amazement and congratulation he shared with me “I just program my GPS and drive around and drop them off.  It’s something I really enjoy doing, and when you see how happy people are to receive it, it makes it all worth it.”

If you volunteer, thank you!  Let us know what makes it worthwhile for you on twitter, facebook or the comment space below.  If you’re thinking of volunteering in 2012, what do you hope to get out of it?  As we hope you have seen this last 12 days, it’s easy and it makes a world of difference to everyone in our community.

Good Deeds with Carlos

December 19, 2011

Is is easy to volunteer?  How much of a difference can you make in an hour or two?  Is it worthwhile?

These are all questions that Carlos, a local radio host with 91.5 The Beat, decided to answer.  As we mentioned previously (here) he is out in the community doing a different volunteer job with a different agency each day for 30 days.  This last Saturday was day Deed 23 and he was helping the House of Friendship distribute turkeys

Today is day 10 of our 12Days campaign.  Tomorrow is the final day of turkey distribution and by that time the last of the Christmas Hamper should be safely stashed away in people’s cupboards.  As of this morning, the final count for Christmas Hampers is 4081!  The 600+ volunteers who have helped accomplish this amazing record have touched the lives of thousands of people.   As Carlos demonstrates, you can make a big difference to someone in the space of an hour or two.  This is something that people never forget.

Have you decided to volunteer yet?  Let us know!  Comment, tweet @HOFKW or post on our facebook wall.

Lots of little things during 12days

December 18, 2011

Work at the Christmas Hamper warehouse is quiet for the weekend.  As we start day 9 of the 12day campaign, we can pause to reflect on the frantic week that has just come to a close.

The need for Christmas Hampers has never been this great.  As of Friday, over 4000 hampers had been assembled by our team of volunteers.  They officially wrapped up their efforts on the assembly line with several rounds of applause for the amazing feat they had just completed. More than 3700  hampers had been hand delivered by countless volunteers. After a pause for Saturday and today, the remaining three or four hundred hampers will be delivered on Monday and Tuesday.

Do you remember Oscar? By 2pm Friday afternoon he had dropped of his 125th Christmas  Hamper delivery.  Was he stopping there? No!  His plan is to continue to deliver until the very end. After pausing to consider, he told me, “oh, I’ll probably get up to 145.  We’ll see.  It’s something that I really enjoy… why not?”

Where do you fit in?  Well, there are still lots of little things you can do to make the region a nicer place.  You don’t have to commit as much time as Oscar has, something as small as going out of your way to say hello to a neighbour or complete stranger can make a difference.  Or even taking an minute out of your day to ask if someone needs help if they seem lost can change a persons day.  Do you hold the door open for the parents with their stroller and little ones trying to get into the grocery store when you’re running errands?  It’s the little things that help add up to a big change.

One thing that we all struggle with  is time.  It’s hard to volunteer if you’re short on time.  I have a job, family and other obligations to meet – how can I volunteer?  Just this week we saw an example of someone putting their skills to use to volunteer, indirectly, at the House of Friendship’s Men’s Hostel.

A place for Rooks and Kings to make new friends.

Using his skills and time someone who needed to complete some community service hours made this chess table for the residents of the Men’s Hostel. John, pictured above, said of the table: “this beautiful table…will be a place where friendships and meaningful conversations will take place.”

Give it some thought.  Are there things that you like to do that might benefit others if you shared them?  Sharing them can make a difference to someone.  As we begin the final stretch of our 12days campaign, let us know what hobbies, skills or interests you think might benefit others.  Find us on Facebook, twitter and comment in the space below.  We’d love to hear from you.

Volunteers Pitching In at Christmas Hampers

December 16, 2011

Every December, volunteers pitch in to bag, box and deliver food for those in need of food assistance in our community.  For many, volunteering at House of Friendship’s Christmas Hamper has become an annual holiday tradition.  I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with two volunteers, Trevor and Doug, who have both made volunteering at the Christmas Hamper program an annual tradition.

Both Trevor and Doug started at Christmas Hampers as volunteer drivers, delivering the Christmas hampers, and they have been helping ever since.  Trevor is able to take some vacation time from his full-time job to work as the hamper dispatcher for the Christmas Hamper program, helping to ensure that the food is delivered to the hamper recipients.  Doug has become more and more involved over the years that he’s been volunteering.  Here’s what they had to say about their involvement with the Christmas Hamper program:

How did you start volunteering at Christmas Hampers?

Trevor told me: “I started volunteering at the Christmas Hamper program because of a man named Bruce Weber.  Bruce was heavily involved with House of Friendship, and he happened to be our youth leader.  He arranged to have our youth group deliver hampers.  That was in 1982.   For the first few years, I was mainly just delivering the hampers.  One year, I came in to pick up a route for delivery, but it was really busy, and Tony Bender (the program coordinator) asked me to step in and explain the process to the new volunteer drivers.  From then on, I have been setting people up with routes, and sending them out to do their deliveries.”

Doug explained: “I got involved many years ago when I brought my children with me to deliver hampers.  Every year after that I saw myself getting more and more involved in the project.  I now am here from day one until the program wraps up before Christmas.”

What brings you back year after year?

Trevor said: “I know that my circumstances are privileged.  I have an excellent support system, and I had all the opportunities when I was growing up.  Circumstances make it difficult for some people to get by, and a program like Christmas Hampers, helps people through those difficult times.  I have always felt that I have something to give, so I am doing so.  It is so easy for me to judge those living in poverty, and give up on them, but I think all of us would be surprised at just how hard being without can really be.”

Doug told me: “I believe so much in this project, a community-based project that satisfies a fundamental need for food.  I enjoy the variety of work that needs to be done.  There is something for everyone.  I also like interacting with the groups that come through here, and talking to the media about all the wonderful things that are happening at the Christmas Hamper warehouse.  I think that this is one of the greatest social service projects out there.  I can remember delivering a hamper to a young family, and I will never forget the way the young girl’s face lit up when we came to their door.  Doing the deliveries really helped me put a face to the need that exists in our community.”

These two volunteers are just a very small sample of the many hands that are committed to making the Christmas Hamper program possible.  Interested in joining them?  Give Tony a call at 519-725-2350.  We still really need drivers to help out. Are you already a Christmas Hamper Volunteer?  Let us know what volunteering means to you!  Comment here on our blog, post on our wall on Facebook or tweet at @HOFKW.

Soup for the soul – pitching in to help volunteers help others

December 11, 2011

Today may be Sunday for you, but for us at House of Friendship, it’s day 2 of 12days, during which volunteers deliver Christmas food hampers and distribute turkeys to families in need.  The Christmas Hampers Warehouse is quiet today, but tomorrow it will be in full swing, packing and shipping Christmas food hampers.

Because it is Sunday, I want to highlight a very important way that many people in our community, of many different faiths,  support the work of Christmas Hamper Volunteers as they share the gift of food with our neighbours in need.

Each year, for many years now, different faith groups choose a day that Christmas Hampers are being packed in our Christmas Warehouse and prepare a delicious soup lunch for the hardworking volunteers working on the assembly line.  This is always a highlight of the day, and an important way of supporting the people who give up their time and a lot of their energy to help others.

One volunteer with the groups told us, “I know the importance of always, in formal and informal ways, appreciating and thanking our volunteers.  Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  Feeding them during a shift is just one small way of showing our thanks and appreciation for their time and efforts.”

For others, there is a powerful spiritual message in the labours of the volunteers, as another group member shared with us that, “The Christmas Hampers that are distributed by House of Friendship are a wonderful incarnation of the spirit and meaning of Christmas, of the generosity of God’s gift at Christmas. And as I believe Dickens said, it is at Christmas when human wants and needs are most keenly felt.  So of course we must support the Christmas Food Hampers!!!”

What is the reward for making soup for 30 or 40 people?  We asked the groups for some suggestions and recipes and our friends at Erb St. Mennonite Church told us, “Even though one person could prepare the soup, it is a time of fellowship and sharing for several people to assemble on the evening before the soup making day and prepare all the ingredients. It is a community building event for us.  It is one link in the chain that binds our faith community with the broader community. We can show our support for the work of House of Friendship in a tangible way.”

As these volunteers show us, if you are wondering where to start pitching in to help others, look no further than your own faith community.   There are always many different ways to help your community and others in need.

House of Friendship offers heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in our many programs.  At this time of year especially, your efforts to pitch in and make a difference are an inspiration to us all.

But we can’t leave a post about sharing soup with others without sharing in turn a recipe.  So with thanks to our many volunteers (both serving and receiving) here you go!

Corn Chowder Soup for Thirty:

  • Start with a big pot or caldron
  • Fry two pounds bacon (chopped)
  • Add a 3-lb bag of onions, chopped
  • Cook until onions are transparent.
  • Add two large bags frozen corn.
  • Add two liters chicken stock, six to eight liters half and half, or milk, or any combination thereof.
  • Add salt & pepper to taste, and generous amounts of Italian Seasoning Mix.
  • When the soup is hot (but not boiling), slowly add one large box of instant mashed potatoes to thicken.

Enjoy! And remember to share with us your stories and comments on how you pitch in.

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…)

Volunteer Spotlight: John

December 29, 2010

John does well to make his presence known when he’s here to volunteer, whether he’s sparking up conversations when he packs hampers, or saying hello to everyone when he comes in. John’s enthusiasm is easy to see while he’s here. And he’s been here and there sporadically helping out whenever needed throughout the last few years. Though we haven’t always been able to track the hours that he supports our program, we know that over the course of the last six months he has volunteered over 70 hours! This includes doing odd jobs in the warehouse, packing hampers, or helping out at the Volunteer Party. Whatever activity John seems to take on, he does so with a keen spirited attitude!  (more…)

Christmas Hamper Success

December 24, 2010

Welcome to the Christmas Hamper Program.

I can hardly believe how quickly the last couple of weeks have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was sorting through mail at the Christmas Bureau and anticipating the excitement that occurs with the Christmas Hamper program. I didn’t know then just how massive an undertaking the Christmas Hamper program is, and how amazing our community is for responding to a need and making this project happen.

So the Christmas Hamper program has come to a close. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s been a whirlwind! The official numbers are in, and this year was yet another record breaker. With over 3,875 hampers delivered, 10,250 people in Kitchener-Waterloo received food, hope and compassion this Christmas season. In addition to these hampers, we also distributed 3,000 turkeys and 500 hams. (more…)