Posts Tagged ‘the power of volunteers’

Volunteer Spotlight: Geoff

March 27, 2013
Geoff hard at work packing hampers.

Geoff hard at work packing hampers.

Geoff is a student at Conestoga College in the Police Foundations program and has been volunteering for over a year. He’s a positive guy who chats with everyone who comes in, and is reliably here every Tuesday at 11 am. He rarely misses a week even though he’s a student, has a job, and volunteers with other organizations. I don’t know how he finds the time to come in, but we’re sure glad he does!

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I heard about the program through KW

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I enjoy working with the nice people here at EFHP and meeting the clients that we serve. I enjoy the satisfaction of making a measurable difference.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I enjoy packing hampers because it gives me an opportunity to speak with our clients and get to know them.

How has volunteering impacted your life?

Volunteering has helped me better understand people that exist outside my own circle of friends. It makes it easier to communicate with people I don’t know or don’t know very well.

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

I volunteer at R.O.O.F. Drop-in and Operation Come Home

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you aren’t working or volunteering?

I enjoy drumming.

Thanks Geoff for taking this time to answer our questions. We really appreciate the work you do packing hampers, finding the time in your busy schedule.  


The 12 Days Do-Gooders: Update on how people are helping out

December 13, 2012

At House of Friendship for our 12 Days of doing good campaign, we’ve got 12 do-gooders highlighting their good deeds. Here are some of the pictures, words, and videos they’ve been sharing about their journey.

Natalie picNatalie Brown-Kivell is the founder of Common Thread Consulting, a local research and facilitation business that works for social justice and organizational change within not-for-profits and government agencies. She is an active community volunteer and agent of social change, with a passion for decreasing poverty and increasing access to all levels of education. She lives every day trying to live true to her values of equality, building community and collaboration, whether it be with her neighbours, friends and family, community organization or advocating at a broader level. Nothing makes Natalie happier then digging in and making some positive change.  Reflecting on her blog here about her influence as a child she observed

“So now, here I am 20 years later thankful for the opportunity that House of Friendship has provided me and the community, to reflect on the good that we have done, highlight the good we are currently doing, and look closely for the good we can do today.”

JuanitaJuanita Metzger has also been blogging here about her experience, highlighting a different person or organization for each of the 12 days.  The people she highlights are doing many creative things to create some good in their own backyard.  They’re truly an inspiration!  Who is Juanita? She describes herself as a “local community connector. Addicted knitter. Creative, non-linear thinker. Passionate reader. Arts and culture supporter. Compulsive guerilla gardener. Intrepid explorer. Creator of cool goodness. Caped crime preventer with great boots.”  She invites everyone to take part in the 12 Days for Good campaign, stating “simply find something good to do each day until December 21st. Really, not so hard! Feel free to share your good deeds on social media with the hashtag #12daysforgood.”

Jane Barkley has been youtube-ing! Here’s a video she made about visiting the Food Bank of Waterloo Region for Tuesday’s theme of ‘food’.

Could you say no to this face?

Could you say no to this face?


“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” -Immanuel Kant

Karen Scian had a different interpretation of Wednesday’s theme of home or ‘shelter,’ championing the cause of the KW Humane Society and reminding us not to forgot our furry best friends.

As a warning, proceed with caution when looking at the online adoption centre…you may just end up with a new pet.

Carlos SmilingCarlos Benevides hosts the Beat Breakfast with Carlos, Sophie and Dave on 91.5 The Beat weekday mornings from 5:30 to 9:30.  His dream as a child was to talk on the radio. 15 years ago he began living that dream and can’t believe he gets paid to do it. He loves what he does and feels it’s his responsibility to use that platform to make a difference, something we can all do by simply volunteering one day a week for one hour.

This morning, he shared with us the following reflections on his experiences so far:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.  That’s a quote from Gandhi I came across that was part of the inspiration for me start my volunteer initiative 30 Deeds in 30 Days last December.  The goal was simple 1) that there are many organizations in need of volunteers here in Waterloo Region, and 2) to let you know it’s easy to donate your time – even just one day a week for an hour.  Imagine if everyone did one day a week for one hour, what could we do?  How many lives could each of us touch? Just imagine.

That’s why I was flattered and excited to be asked to lend my support and get involved with the House Of Friendship’s 12 Days Of Good. To keep on spreading the message of getting involved and as the title suggest do some good no matter how small the gesture.

Christmas is an incredibly stressful and unhappy time of the year for many people. It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be. It should be a time full of happiness as we celebrate all the goodness in our lives, family and friends. I am incredibly lucky. I have a roof over my head, I have food on my table, loved ones that I can rely on, and I have hope that tomorrow will be a better day.  Sadly there are those here in Waterloo Region that aren’t so fortunate.  I met some of those people who are in need yesterday as I delivered Christmas hampers.

My hope is I helped those people I dropped off hampers to have better days today. It’s difficult for me to write what I felt as I made the deliveries, but I’ll try.  I felt a purpose in my life – I was creating a community where no one gets left behind.  Where we all feel like we’re pulling in the same direction and I was building a world that I will leave better off after I’m gone.  I felt a glow in my chest that warmed my entire body. As I gazed into the faces of those men and women, I felt goodness pouring from me as they said thank you. I felt my heart grow.  It was amazing. I gave them food and hope yesterday, but they gave me so much more.

Do some good over the next 12 days and then keep going after that.  Don’t stop.  Lose yourself in the service of others.  Doing so has changed my life, and it can change yours too.

Inspired by this small sampling of how 12 people are taking on the 12 Days for Good challenge? Christmas Hampers are all ready to be delivered, and just waiting for cars that can take them to their homes. Read our page here to get involved.

And, remember to keep tweeting the good deeds you’ve done to us @HOFKW while we continue through day 4 of the #12daysforgood!

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…)

Our volunteers go the distance

October 15, 2012

One of the single most rewarding parts of being at the House of Friendship is working beside the hundreds of amazing volunteers who come to help us and others each and every day of the year.  At the beginning of September we took a moment to relax and celebrate their achievements in style thanks to Knox Presbyterian Church who opened their space to us and let us set up some BBQ’s to grill some tasty food.

We couldn’t have done it without Boston Pizza, Canadian Tire, The Cake Box, Future Shop, Galaxy Cinemas, Max’s Golf, the Perimeter Institute, Princess Cafe, Starbucks, The Museum, Walmart, Waterloo Region Museum, Whole-lota Gelata, and CIBC who all generously gave their own thanks for the work our volunteers do by donating raffle prizes. (more…)

Big numbers are a problem

September 28, 2011

It is hard to get a handle on big numbers.  What do 5,000 or more people look like gathered in one place?  What does it look like to serve food to the 2200+ households those 5000+ people live in? It is hard to imagine, and often, even harder to describe. But, on average each month this year we have served that many households and people.  Sometimes, we have served even more.

We can give you a lot of statistics to help you understand how our donors and volunteers make a difference to all the people we serve, but after a while, lots of big numbers lose their meaning – they go in one ear and out the other, and if I asked you later, you would be hard pressed to remember them. Why?  Well, we, as humans, have a hard time wrapping our heads around big numbers in meaningful ways. It helps to have a frame of reference to put numbers in context.  People like hearing and sharing stories, they don’t like memorizing tables of numbers.  We are social beings, not walking excel spreadsheets.

But, I have a dilemma! I have some numbers I want to share with you! To help you understand all the ways our volunteers help, I have broken some of the important stats from this year down a little into things that might mean something to the average person.

Lets start at the beginning…

source: MCC website

On average, each month our volunteers help over 500 infants and toddlers!  If approximately 20 infants and toddlers fit into a day care, that’s translated into about 25 day care centers a month!  This is something to think about the next time you drop your kids off with a caregiver on your way to work, or when you give one of your grandchildren a hug.

How many school age children do we serve?

source: Transport Canada

At one point in your life you have probably ridden in a school bus. Especially if you grew up in a rural community like I did. Assuming that 50 school age kids fit on a school bus, each month our volunteers send home food to feed 30 school buses full of kids! That’s about one and half buses full each day we are open.  Think about that next time you’re stuck in traffic behind a school bus full of kids making faces at you.

What can you fit over 3000 adults into?

source: de zeen magazine

If about 300 adults fit into an apartment building, then on average, each month our volunteers help get out enough food to feed 11 buildings full of people!  Think about that the next time you are  shopping downtown walking past the apartment blocks. If you live in an apartment building yourself, walk up five flights of stairs and, on average, all the people living on those floors would equal the number of people we serve each day we are open.


source: Alabama local news

And finally, if about 300 people fit into a bingo hall, every two months our volunteers help feed a bingo hall full of senior citizens!  I was a bit of a loss to come up with a good yardstick to measure our service to seniors.  But, nevertheless, we called up a local bingo hall and they said that the most they could fit in at one time was about 300 people.  So, every two months our volunteers will call out BINGO and reflect on the 300 seniors our food went to help.

Generally, many people who work with food banks estimate that there are many seniors in our community who need the help but don’t come to us.  Part of the problem is knowledge.  Many of them don’t know we’re here.  The other part of the problem is that it is difficult for them to admit they need the help.

Adding it all up

So, where do our food hampers go?  Each month on average, the food hampers go to 500 infants and toddlers, 1500 school age children, 3000 adults and about 150 senior citizens.   That’s more than one child care centre full of infants and toddlers, one and half school buses of school age kids, half an apartment building of adults and a few tables at a bingo hall of senior citizens every day we are open.

Which is easier to remember?  We would love to hear some feedback from you.  How do you remember important statistics? How can we better share the story of our volunteers and the mountains of food they move to help so many people?

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: 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!

The Value of One, the Power of Many

April 13, 2011

“Those are a lot of garbage bags,” Matt observed early Friday morning, “people are definitely doing a little spring cleaning.” The front of the warehouse, where we store incoming non-food donations, is piled with bagged clothing like stacks of potatoes during the Potato Blitz. We faced a dilemma. With so many donated clothes, we always struggle to distribute them quickly before more arrives. That’s when Wouda, one of our long-term volunteers piped up to say, “It’s great!  I’ve got something to really keep me busy now!”

Although we are primarily a food program, we also accept clothing and other household donations. In the same way that the food we receive must be sorted and repacked, so too must these non-food items be taken out of their bags and put on hangers to be displayed in the lobby. Over ten years ago, when Wouda brought a friend in to collect a hamper, she noticed that the clothing area could use some attention. She has been responding to that need ever since, dedicating her weekday mornings to this cause.

“I just love it. I love all of it,” Wouda giggled as she surveyed the bags of treasures. She explained to me that only a week ago, there were barely any items for the lobby. She kept busy that week working on potatoes instead, but was concerned by the lack of donations that normally fill our waiting area. “Now,” she said smiling, “the donation bin is overflowing!”

Wouda peeks out from behind a few of the garbage bags of clothing we received on Friday.

Things like this happen all the time. Just when we are beginning to wonder if we will run out of size four diapers, the Food Bank tells us they just received a shipment of them. Just when we are starting to frown at the size of our hampers, we receive an unexpected donation of food. The only way we are able to make use of this good fortune is through the power of our volunteers. Wouda isn’t the only one who has to process this mountain of clothing – she is assisted by the many other volunteers who keep this place bustling. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill

April 9, 2011

There’s an interesting story to how this interview started. When I went to give Bill a food list to pack I told him that if he could guess the surprise I had for him, he’d win a prize. And this is it! His prize was to sit down with me for a few minutes with me in the break room so I could ask him a few questions to share on the blog. However I phrased it more that I was going to make him famous, so here’s my best attempt to give him his fifteen minutes of fame:


Volunteer Spotlight: Tracey

April 7, 2011

Recently Tracey celebrated her six month anniversary of volunteering, since she started in October. Over these months Tracy has volunteered for more than 50 hours!

Today I found Tracey unloading a skid of cabbage and lettuce, which is a change of pace from her regular role as a hamper packer. However Tracey comes to us with a great enthusiasm to help people, and doesn’t mind doing whatever task we have to accomplish from our to-do list. So today I asked Tracey to take a break so I could ask her a few questions to share with all of our lovely blog readers: (more…)