Posts Tagged ‘thank you’

Not so different after all

December 24, 2011

Today is the day before Christmas, a day when many of us will be exchanging gifts with friends and family and coming together.  Today we thought it would be timely to share a few words from Michael Hackbusch, the Chaplaincy Director at House of Friendship about the local faith community, and the many gifts they share with our community each year.



A big kick off to the fall

September 26, 2011

Have you seen this poster recently? What about the donation bins located near the check-out at many grocery stores within the region? Well this is the time of year when they are extremely important to places like the House of Friendship because the Food Bank of Waterloo Region will soon kick off their annual Fall Food Drive!

Yes it’s that time of year again. Though the Food Bank is fortunate to collect many donations each week from local grocery stores, the big shelves at their warehouse are getting empty. Just last Wednesday, my co-worker Raymond was touring their warehouse and mentioned that there were starting to be more empty spaces than full. As a result the Fall Food Drive is kicking off on October 3rd, and running until October 16th. At this time of year programs like ours hope that enough food will be collected to cover the demands placed on the Food Bank over the coming months. How much food is needed? What are we hoping to see? Click here to see the top ten most needed items.

How can you help? Over the coming weeks the Food Bank will be participating in a variety of events that you can have fun attending and help out by donating a few non-perishable products. Please visit their website for more information, but here’s a brief overview to help you mark your calendar:

All of these events are always a lot of fun, and they are a great way to help the Food Bank and our  regional friends (Cambridge Self Help, Woolwich Community Services, Wilmot Family Resource Centre) reach their 375 000 pound target goal for donations. Bringing even one can of food or bag of pasta or rice to each event means you are helping to put a meal together for over 25 500 people who will receive food from food hamper programs in the coming year. From all of us at House of Friendship and the many other food banks throughout the region, thank you in advance for all your generous donations!

Bikes for tykes

July 14, 2011

The House of Friendship can only exist with the support and assistance of a multitude of volunteers.  If you are a regular reader of our blog, you have met many of them so far, but today I wanted to introduce someone who volunteers in a different way.  His name is Gerald.

A few years ago Gerald called me up and pitched an idea to distribute refurbished children’s bikes at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  Gerald has a bike shop at 725 King Street North in Waterloo and is a strong believer in everyone doing a little bit to make the world a better place. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Rob

June 15, 2011

On a quite afternoon I found a job for Rob. Nice rhyme eh? Well I’m not as funny as this volunteer so I’ll leave the jokes to him. I’ll stick to what I’m good at – introducing the volunteers and sharing some of the interesting facts and quotes that they shared with me.

Rob is a remarkable volunteer with a long history here. He started volunteering back in September of 2006. Yet the more amazing part is how much he’s grown here and the amount of hours he’s been in this building, which is totaling somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1 800 hours!! But I don’t want to give away too much more of his story because he tells it better. So here goes…

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“My tenant at the time was volunteering or getting assistance here. I decided I wanted to try volunteering for the first time, especially since I live close to this location. Here’s a funny story though: when I walked down the driveway somebody outside told me that this place wasn’t looking for volunteers. I almost walked away but then I thought I’ll leave my name anyways. Well when I walked in the Volunteer Coordinator was happy to set up an orientation with me. In the end I’m glad I didn’t listen to the person outside.”

We’re definitely glad you didn’t listen because we’re often always looking for volunteers. Maybe not right away, but a spot usually opens up within the next few weeks. Anyways, why is volunteering important to you?

“The way I see it is that if you want to be happy in life you need to take your mind off yourself and use that time to make others happy.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“Working here has helped me learn a lot about people. I use to work in factories and construction but never with the public. I enjoy being face-to-face with all the different family sizes and cultures.”

To read more about how we accommodate special diets, please visit this previous blog.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“Irritating the staff! (We took a break to laugh and share some stories)….Really I enjoy the variety. When I started I was bagging food and doing odd jobs in the warehouse. Then after about two years I wanted to learn to pack hampers. Now when I come in I like that I can jump back and forth to help out with whichever is needed more.”

Note: When Rob started no one would have guessed that he’d be packing hampers one day. He had such a quiet nature to him at the beginning; but over the years we’ve been fortunate to see him come out of his shell. All the positive reinforcement really has paid off to build his confidence, and add a member to our hamper packing team. 

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not working or volunteering?

“I chop a lot of wood because I try to heat my house with a wood stove through the winter. Doing yard work keeps me busy in the summer too. I enjoy camping. Other than that I don’t think I’m that exciting – probably because I’m too busy being here.”  

Well Rob we always appreciate that you’re able to commit so many days a week to us in a pinch between finding a new set of volunteers; and that you’re “on-call” to save us when other volunteers call in last-minute! I can’t even count how many times you’ve just stopped in to make sure we have enough volunteers too. It’s extraordinary how much you care about helping the many families and individuals who need our program. I don’t think we can say thank you enough or that thank you even covers the amount of gratitude we have for you! You’re tremendous and we’re so glad that you’ve been a faithful volunteer for all these years. THANK YOU!

Family sticks together – the rising cost of food and the family farm

June 3, 2011

As Melissa blogged about earlier, the rising cost of food is getting a lot of play in the media and is weekly on the minds of everyone who does any grocery shopping – especially if you’re on a limited or fixed income.

Higher or lower, the cost of food is a struggle for many on both sides of the producer/consumer coin.  The people who grow it, ship it, store it, sell it and buy it all have an interest in how much food costs and what is good for one, may not be good for all.

We have shared our perspective already, with some words from John our executive director, as well as Tony, our Community Services Director.  Today we are going to share a few words from Trevor Herrle, a local farmer and businessman, who’s family has helped our organization tremendously.

You can learn more about the Herrle’s and their country farm market here, as well as read some blog posts by Trevor on the excellent Food Link blog here.  He is also an active tweeter (follow @HerrlesMarket) and provides some really interesting views into what it’s like to be a farmer. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Marge

June 2, 2011

Today we have another wonderful volunteer to share: Marge! Marge is a dedicated volunteer who has helped out for over 700 hours – 115 of those coming in last year. Marge has been volunteering since December of 2005. In this time Marge she has shared a lot about herself, and taken a great interest in getting to know some of the patrons, staff and volunteers. Before the interview I knew a little bit about Marge but this experience definitely helped me learn a lot more.  I’m very excited to be able to showcase her!

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“I’ve always been aware of House of Friendship since I moved to Cambridge about 35 years ago. My church has tried to help out in various ways throughout the years. But a couple of years ago my husband was the one who brought up volunteering here. Though he’s moved on to other volunteering activities I hope to be around for a while.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

“Volunteering is a part of who I am. I value the idea of helping others so I’ve built it into my lifestyle. I used to be a social worker, so I like to still be involved. It keeps me up-to-date on who needs to be supported or what I need to advocate for.”

Are there any other programs that you volunteer or have volunteered with?

“I help out with different activities in my church throughout the year. Since last spring I have been involved with an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. And I’ve also been involved with various support groups in a cancer-care support facility (Hope Spring) and for individuals who struggle with being abused as children.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“Again I’d probably say that volunteering here keeps me aware of what the needs are in the community. But getting to know the staff and other volunteers is a big perk. Everyone is so fun to be around so it’s hard not to enjoy helping out here.”

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“Really I don’t mind doing any job while I’m here. I started mostly bagging food or diapers in the beginning; but now I’m here more to pack hampers. I’d probably say that I enjoy packing hampers more though because it’s very interesting for me to meet and talk with all the different types of people and families that use this service. I know it’s only a brief conversation but I feel like its important because I can take the chance to share some cooking tips, they’ll tell me about how their kids love or hate the foods we have to offer, and other things like that.”

To read more about the significance of us distributing baby items, click here.

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re volunteering?

“I love reading and spending time with my grandchildren. And I love cooking. I’m always looking to try new recipes and find creative ways to get my family to eat more vegetables and other healthy foods.”

Marge I think it’s phenomenal that your interest in helping people remains so strong after many years. You come in week after week to lend a hand with whatever task we need and always seem to do it with a smile. I especially love your cooking advice, since I live with a picky eater. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to helping our program and the people we serve each day.

Volunteer Spotlight: Alexandra

May 12, 2011

Alexandra has traveled quite a distance before settling down in Kitchener. Originally she is from Colombia; but many years ago she moved to Chicago, Illinois. For over ten years she lived in a Spanish community in Chicago. Although when she was looking for a change of pace one of her friends mentioned that Kitchener was a beautiful city to live in. And now she’s here!

Alexandra has been living in this area for about a year and a half now. For about the same amount of time she’s been volunteering with our program. WOW! She comes in a few times a week to help us out with various tasks in the warehouse. Overall she’s volunteered for about 215 hours! But let’s hear more about what she has to say about herself:

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“The outreach worker at my local community center directed me to this program. I am a mom with two kids who was starting my life all over again so I needed a hamper. Then when I was here I asked if this place needed volunteers.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

“I enjoy coming here because it helps me learn English. While I lived in Chicago I was always speaking Spanish, but then I came here and everyone speaks English so I’ve started to learn. Also this experience helps me build relationships to use for job references in the future.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“Coming here has built my confidence in speaking English. But I’m excited for the people here because everyone is so nice and works well together. It’s so impressive to see the service that people get here. This program always gives out such fresh and healthy food. It’s amazing because my country never had any help like this.”

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“I don’t mind bagging any food – except potatoes. They’re really dirty!”

Note: Alexandra probably has no idea how important her work is bagging things like fruit when she’s in to volunteer. Let’s do the math! Each bag contains about 5 pieces of fruit. One tote can hold about 20 bags of fruit – or 100 pieces of fruit. Looking at our average family size, which is 2.2 people, this means that each tote of fruit that she bags allows us to provide fruit to about 45 hampers (depending on the quotas for the day).

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not working or volunteering?

“I like swimming and reading religious books. My kids keep me very busy though. I have a 17-year old son and a 9-year-old girl. Being a single mom isn’t easy because my kids need me to be so many things for them throughout the day. But as a single mom I feel like I can do anything! Every day gets easier.”

Alexandra you’re a remarkably strong woman with very interesting stories to share. I’m sure you’re future will only continue to bring good things for you. We’re glad that you’ve been able to settle in to the area and help us each week. Thank you!

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff

April 28, 2011

Almost a year and a half ago today was when we saw Jeff for the first time to help out in our warehouse. He started doing various tasks in the warehouse like stocking shelves and re-packaging food items but we slowly started introducing him to packing hampers. He’s been a tremendous amount of help at the end of the day to help us clear through the last-minute hampers rushes before we close or to stock the hamper aisle shelves so we’re ready for the next morning. Jeff has a lot of experience with each of these tasks as he’s been helping us out for about 130 hours by coming in week after week. As a result of his continued dedication I took some time to ask him a few questions so we could all get to know more about this fantastic volunteer.

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“I’ve always looked to do some volunteering here and there over the years; but a lot of places were full since high schools students have had to do mandatory volunteering hours. Then I needed to do some community service hours and got help finding a placement with the John Howard Society. After I finished my hours I requested to keep volunteering if they needed someone.

Why is volunteering important to you?

“With this program specifically I’d probably say that it’s important because people need food. And I know that you guys rely mostly on volunteers so I like being able to help them get it.”

Are there any other programs that you volunteer or have volunteered with?

“I’ve helped out at the St. Johns Soup Kitchen a few times since I know one of the staff people there. And I also do on call help at the Breithaupt Community Center for various events like their Book Fair in March.”

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“Stocking the shelves is something I like to do. It’s pretty straightforward stuff, and really helps out for all the people who are packing hampers. Checking the expiry dates on some of the products like canned soup can be a bit of a challenge but I still enjoy it.”

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not working or volunteering?

“I’m into music. I’ve taken some lessons and taught myself how to play guitar, bass guitar, and drums. Most of what I play would be categorized as rock music. I recently became a certified snowboard instructor. And I also keep myself busy with my kids. I like playing sports with them, and taking them out to the park, the library, the museum, and places like that.”

Well Jeff it was great to get to talk to you. You’re often so busy working in the warehouse that I don’t always get a chance to see you in the break room while you’re here. Thanks for all your hard work in all areas of the warehouse!

Why we fight hunger

April 15, 2011

Time is not measured by the years that we live. But by the deeds that we do and the joys that we give.  – Helen Steiner Rice


Putting the final touches on packing a hamper for one of the many families we served today.

Volunteer appreciation week is coming to an end today.  For the last two weeks we’ve tried to highlight the different ways that volunteers make a difference here. We’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to share some of the joy to be had each week working together with this amazing group of people.

I wanted to finish the week with a few words from someone we helped in March:

“Thank you for all your hard work and the time you put into making food hampers available for us.  Asking for the extra help has been hard, but I know you are there to help when I need it most…”

March was full of surprises again.  While January and February this year were a little slower than last year, March decided it would break more records, and yet again, we packed the most hampers ever in a single month, coming out at 3 313 hampers (versus 3 305 last year) to 2 850 households made up of over 6 600 people.

It’s not a huge increase over last year, but it was a lot of very busy days spent trying to keep up with the phone calls and requests by family after family.  If we didn’t have volunteers, would we be able to help that many people?

No.  It’s pretty simple. Those people would have to make do with less, or even nothing, since we would have probably had to turn them away empty-handed.

Volunteers have built this program up, they keep it running, and they make sure the job gets done.  It’s never easy for a person to walk in here and ask for help; last year a woman told us that it took her three days to build up the courage to walk through our door after the initial call to set up a file.  However that was after the two months it took her friends and family to finally convince her to call in the first place.

When she left she knew that she wasn’t alone.  Our volunteers will be there to help when times are tough.

Preparing a meal for friends

April 14, 2011

Rupert's working in the lobby before we open the doors for the day. Soon this space will be full of people waiting for food hampers.

When the doors open at eleven a big rush comes through our building. A large number of patrons enter to pick up food hampers, and the warehouse fills up with more people to pack and sort through food. For me this all happens in between answering the phone, explaining the program to first time visitors and trying to figure out how best to accommodate different special diets and requests. But the end result is walking back and forth from my desk to the warehouse between 11 and 4:15 to hand in food slips into a waiting wooden box, where they will be picked up by an awaiting volunteer hamper packer.

This afternoon, we’ve just received a large group of people who just took the number 18 bus here.  There are a few single people, a woman with a stroller and a couple who are here for the first time. Every half hour to an hour we get another bus, and the people who walk, drive, bike or get a ride are often who we serve in between.

When requests slow down we often yell out to the warehouse to let our volunteers know there is a hamper available, because they are often filling time by doing another task in the warehouse. Some volunteers answer back more enthusiastically than others. Take Connie for example, in this situation when the slip drops into the empty box she’ll calls out “Haaamperrrraama!” (more…)