Posts Tagged ‘volunteer appreciation week’

Volunteers Are The Roots Of Strong Communities

April 15, 2016


Roots are important.

A place like Kitchener Waterloo has a history. Each person who lives here, and has lived here, has set down roots. They get tangled up and they hold us together.  They hold our history, and clues to what is important for all of us.

Tomorrow is the last day of Volunteer Appreciation Week.  Volunteers are one of the single greatest factors that help us achieve our goals at House of Friendship.  As


Pat always has a smile and a joke to share.

Alissa from the Kingsdale Community Centre recently shared with us, “our community  is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers, they are the hands and feet of the support we are able to provide to the community.”

Take Pat, for example, a volunteer at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  She dedicates herself to making sure things are clean and tidy and lending a hand anywhere when needed.  She told me that, “volunteering is a great feeling. When I volunteer I know that I’m helping and I like to help people!”

She and over 70 other volunteers help each week to ensure people have something to eat in our community at the Food Hamper Program. Each day everywhere in House of Friendship and across the Region Pat and countless other volunteers like her get to work and leave a profound and lasting mark on our neighbourhoods. (more…)

National Volunteer Week: how far have we walked together?

April 26, 2013

Imagine you are sitting in your family room watching your favorite show on TV.  It’s the commercial break, and your stomach rumbles.  It’s been a long day at work and you’re tired.  Is it worth it to walk all the way to the Kitchen and fix yourself a snack?  We’ve all been in the state where your will and motivation to get up and get moving is definitely lacking.  Sometimes it’s hard to fight the inertia of exhaustion.

Do you have a child?  If so, you’ve probably found yourself in that horrible situation where you’ve gone for a walk, and their favorite stuffed animal, which was clutched tightly in their arms at the start of the journey, has somehow been left behind along the path.  I’m sure you’ve spent many a frantic moment at the grocery store looking for your child’s favorite stuffed animal that they simply would not leave at home.  How far would you go to find something for someone you love like your child?

When your little one grows up will they remember you going the extra mile? Probably they will later in life, if they have children of their own and they’ll understand how you would gladly go an extra 1000 miles for your family in a heart-beat.

Now, how many miles would you walk, metaphorically or otherwise for a stranger?

Last year, our volunteers packed over 33,000 hampers for families in need. Now that is a lot of food assistance going out on a daily basis. A while back at the food hamper program, a few of us were trying to think of ways to help people wrap their heads around how many hampers 33,000 really is.  As we’ve written about in the past, understanding big numbers can be difficult. How can we possibly communicate to volunteers how much work they’ve done as a team, especially during National Volunteer Week?

A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and one way we thought of to help us share the significant amount of work our volunteers accomplish was a simple racetrack, on which a mascot (chosen by popular vote) would race around. So how does this work? Well every time someone packs a hamper here, they walk in a circle around some central shelves and tables, shaped like a race track. The starting line is the meat freezers, and once they get in motion, they go on to potatoes, vegetables, soup, pasta, race past the tomato sauce, fruit, peanut butter, rice, beans, baby items, bread, then coolers stocked with milk, yogurt, juice, and extra items. The finish line is crossed once they get to the window where they pass the hamper off to the family who is receiving it. We measured how far a walk (or run) it is from the beginning of the circuit to the end, and it measures approximately 20 metres. When you multiply 20 metres by how many hampers we pack, our volunteers have traveled a long distances to get food to complete strangers!

The hamper racetrack hanging in our warehouse. As the apple moves around the track, it means we've packed more hampers and walked a longer distance.

The hamper racetrack hanging in our warehouse. As the apple moves around the track, it means we’ve packed more hampers and walked a longer distance.

At first, I didn’t realize just how far we have gone together, but then we did the math. When we’ve packed 5000 hampers, that is the equivalent of 100 kilometers. When we’ve packed 5700 hampers, that is the equivalent of 114 kilometers, or the distance from our program at 807 Guelph Street to Queen’s Park in Toronto – a feat which we had already accomplished by mid-February of this year. After 23 900 hampers, we will have packed so many that between all of volunteers they will have walked the equivalent of here to Parliament Hill in Ottawa (we will likely have covered this ground by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall).

As volunteers pack more hampers, we multiply the hampers by the amount of distance walked per hamper. To help volunteers understand the impact each day volunteering with us has, we then move our little mascot, Amos the Apple, around the track to mark how far we’ve walked. The racetrack is a visual representation of how hard volunteers work together. Every year, when put together, we walk over 600 kilometers together. For me, the racetrack is also a reminder of how many families in our community need food assistance, and that there is still a long way to go before we eradicate poverty and achieve food security for everyone.

Thanks to our incredible volunteers who walk with us and our program participants each day, and who go farther than they realize.

National Volunteer Week: how our volunteers build community

April 22, 2013

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” –Marjorie Moore

Marge and Mark take a quick break from packing hampers in the warehouse.

Marge and Mark take a quick break from packing hampers in the warehouse.

This week is National Volunteer Week, and for a program like ours that relies on volunteers to run at all, it’s a pretty special one. A few weeks ago when I was looking for inspiration for volunteer week, I came across the quote above, by Marjorie Moore. As a self-admitted political junkie, I love the quote, and I love the idea that people can work together to create a place where they feel at home. Our volunteers come in every week (or in some cases, every day!) for their shifts—so what keeps them coming back? I think what draws volunteers in is that they feel a connection to and a passion for the vision of the House of Friendship: creating healthy communities where all can belong and thrive. So, what does that kind of community look like, and what values are volunteers voting for with their hours here? I have a few ideas.

A community that believes in the right to food

The first thing I see volunteers ‘voting’ for is a community where everyone has a right to food. Everyone here is passionate about feeding people, and about creating healthy hampers. When we don’t have fresh veggies to put into hampers for people I hear volunteers lamenting the fact that the hampers aren’t as healthy as usual. White bread is always left to the end, and whole wheat goes into hampers first.

Ursula bags up some mushrooms for hampers.

Ursula bags up some mushrooms for hampers.

Volunteers like Val are excited about ‘selling’ produce people may not know how to cook, like cabbage, turnip, or papaya. They recognize that if you live on low income it can be hard to afford healthy items, and they want to give people nourishing food their family will enjoy. Every day I see excited volunteers going through recipes with people getting food, even writing down tips to send along with them. Volunteers like volunteering here because they are drawn to food issues in some capacity. Like our volunteer Sherry said, “I volunteer here because I like helping people with their food.”


Volunteer Spotlight: Val

April 10, 2013


Val has been volunteering at Food Hampers for a year now, but it feels like she’s been here forever because she fits in so well. She has something called chronic fatigue syndrome, but you wouldn’t know it by how much energy she has when she comes in–she’s always chatting with people and catching up with her fellow volunteers. She loves explaining new foods to people who use the program and trying to get them to try things they haven’t had before. My personal favourite is whenever she talks a bachelor who hates vegetables into cooking cabbage! She has also been known to drive people home with their hampers if they’re having trouble accessing transportation. It was great to sit down and learn more about such a dedicated volunteer.

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I bumped into my dear friend Betty who also volunteers at the Food Hamper Program. I was in a severe depression at the time and told her I had nothing to do during the day, and she recommended I try it. It stabilized my life.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I love the diversity of people I work with and getting to know everyone. I love relating to the people we’re serving and trying my best to meet their needs. It’s great to be able to help.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I love packing hampers! I like finding healthy treats for the kids, and helping  parents try healthy options like whole wheat bread instead of white. I tell people to make their kids sandwiches with one slice whole wheat and one white until the kids are used to it, and then make the full switch. I love giving people tips so they take healthier things. Feeding another person is an intimate act, and people are very defensive about what they eat, but most are open to suggestion too.

How has volunteering impacted your life?

Volunteering here has brought me out into the world again because I was very isolated. With my health concerns (chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia), I pulled further and further away from my friends. It’s very difficult to maintain a social life when I feel exhausted and my brain feels foggy all the time. I think humans have a need to be needed, and if that need involved food, then I’m there!

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

I’ve volunteered at the library taking books to seniors, with the Out of the Cold program, and in the nursery at church.

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

When I’m feeling up to it I love ten pin bowling (I’m useless at five pin). I also play darts at the legion. I love reading, especially crime novels set in the Victorian era or Agatha Christie. I grew up in England and my first love is the ocean.

I really appreciate Val taking the time to talk about her life. Her dedication and enthusiasm are infectious and brighten the mood wherever she is. Thanks Val!

A hamper is worth a thousand words

April 20, 2012

For us to try and explain in words all of the wonderful things that the volunteers at the Emergency Food Hamper Program do would be difficult.  Instead, we have compiled a set of pictures, both new and not-so new, of our volunteers in action!  The pictures will walk you through a typical day at 807 Guelph Street.

Let start with the morning.  Typically volunteers arrive any time after 8am ready to get to work.  The morning crew work together to sort, stock and bag large quantities of food that has been donated to our program.

Once the shelves have been stocked and the quotas set, we open the doors to the public.  At this time, we also welcome our hamper packers who will pack and distribute a large quantity of food to those are in need of food assistance.

While there is always work to be done at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, there is always time for FUN!

So this wraps up a day at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  As you can see there is a lot of work that is done within the walls of 807 Guelph Street, but there is a lot of laughs shared amongst staff and volunteers to keep the spirits high!

Volunteer Spotlight: Kristina

April 20, 2012

Kristina has been volunteering here since April 2010, giving over 80 hours of her time.  During this time, Kristina has gone on a few great adventures to countries around the world, but we are always glad when she returns to volunteer with us!  Kristina always has a smile to share with the people that she is working with and the people that she is packing hampers for.  Here’s what she had to say about her experience volunteering at the Emergency Food Hamper Program:

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I can remember my friend, Beth, telling me about how much she enjoyed volunteering with House of Friendship.  She asked me to come with her to check it out, and I have been coming ever since.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I think I enjoy the interactions that I am able to have with the other volunteers and the people that are coming in for food assistance.  It has been great to get to know some of the regular volunteers who I get to spend time with on a weekly basis.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

My favourite job is definitely packing the hampers.  I like seeing what is going into the food hampers each week, and also getting a chance to interact with the food hamper recipients.  It makes it all worthwhile.

How has volunteering impacted your life?

Volunteering has given me an area that I am able to give of myself, and to help others along the way. It has also made me feel  like I am being useful with my time.  This is also a practical way for me to help people in need in our community.

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

Currently I am not volunteering anywhere else because I am in the midst of a Developmental Services Worker program through Fanshawe College, and it requires me to complete work placements for the program.  I am also working a variety of shifts at the Elmira Association for Community Living, so that consumes quite a bit of my time!

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

I like to travel and to check out the music events and festivals happening in our area.  I also like to bike and hike, and to take day trips here and there.  I met my husband, Nitin, on a trip to India where he is from, and ever since he moved to Canada it has been great to go on adventures with him.

Thank you Kristina for sharing with us!  I am glad you decided to come with me three years ago to volunteer at the EFHP.  It has been great having you and Nitin volunteering with us!   

Being flexible

April 18, 2012

Hello!  I’m Matt G, the other Matt at the Food Hamper Program.  I have been working as the Emergency Food Hamper Program’s volunteer coordinator for the past three years.  One of the things I’ve learned most over the past few years is what it means to be flexible.  The Emergency Food Hamper Program is a unique place.  We are affected by so many varying factors such as how much food we will get in, when that food will arrive, and how many people will come in for emergency assistance.  We never know what will show up on our door step, and when.

807 Guelph Street is an ever-changing environment and the needs of our program are constantly changing.  For this reason, I am so grateful to the many volunteers who all seem to have this same characteristic of being flexible.

We have so many great volunteers who are able to adapt to any and every situation and who are willing to do whatever is most needed of them at a given moment.  They show up and ask us, “what do you need me to do now?”  As needs change, they are willing to change too.  They walk through our door with a lot of enthusiasm about doing whatever they can to make others feel maybe just a little bit better.  And they most assuredly do!  Sometimes the result of what we are doing at the Emergency Food Hamper Program gets lost in the day-to-day chaos that is our operations. It is easy to think of our work in terms of how many boxes of lettuce we need to move from one end of the warehouse to another, or how much yogurt we need to distribute to make space for the shipment of mushrooms that we know will show up the following morning.

The reality is, however, that many individuals and families are being helped each day, and this is a result of the willingness of an amazing crew of volunteers who are not so much concerned about what they are doing themselves, but what we are doing together.  Whether it is packing hampers, stocking shelves, sorting through mountains of donated clothing, or even sweeping the floor, all these things are very important and make it possible for us to continue to do what we are doing.

Volunteer Sherry works at making a dent in the bin full of potatoes

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.  ~Oscar Wilde

Everybody can be great.  Because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Volunteer Spotlight: Martin

April 17, 2012

Martin has been volunteering at the Emergency Food Hamper Program (EFHP) for just over a year now, giving over 90 hours of his time to this food assistance program.  Martin is passionate about food, and this program seems to be a natural fit for him.  It was great to take a few moments to get to know Martin and what he does when he is not volunteering at the EFHP. 

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I was looking to do some volunteering in K-W and I read about House of Friendship on the Volunteer Action Centre’s website.  I thought it would be a good fit for me since I currently work at the Loblaw’s distribution centre in Cambridge.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I find that since I began volunteering I get more value from myself.  I find myself utilizing my days a lot better.  I don’t work until 3:00 pm, so coming here in the morning keeps me active.  I find so much value from volunteering here; not only am I keeping busy with something to do, I am also able to help people who are in need of food assistance in our community.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I enjoy stocking the shelves.  I like this because I can just come in and get started.  I don’t need to be told what to do; I just do it.  I find that everyone works together here as a team.  If I ever have any questions, I don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

How has volunteering impacted your life?

I have found that having something to do with my mornings has given me more motivation to keep active when I am not working.  As a result of volunteering and working with food, I have become increasingly interested in gardening.  This summer, I am starting a garden with a friend of mine.  I have a tray of 204 seedlings that I will plant at the garden.  I am excited about this opportunity!

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

The gardening project that I have undertaken will be keeping me quite busy in the coming months.  I am also working with the Program Coordinator at the EFHP to start a compost program.  With this project, I am visiting a number of farms in the area to see how they are composting.

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

I enjoy being active and outdoors.  I like biking, skiing, gardening and camping.  I did a lot of camping last year at some of the GRCA parks, and I plan to explore some of the parks in the Halton Hills area this summer.  I am also looking into spending a week volunteering at a farm near Listowel.  I find that I learn the most from face-to-face interactions with people, and not from just doing an internet search.

It sounds like you have some exciting adventures ahead of you!  Thanks for your ongoing commitment to the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  We are looking forward to the design and implementation of the compost program here!   

Welcome Volunteer Week!

April 16, 2012

Too often we under-estimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

 –Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia

Volunteers working together to pack a food hamper

Each year organizations across Canada shine a spotlight on the people who are making a lasting difference in the lives of many.  Who might these extraordinary people be?  Volunteers!  Today marks the beginning of a weeklong national celebration of volunteerism.

According to the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, 13.3 million Canadians volunteered their time through a group or organization, giving about 2.1 billion hours in 2010 alone.  The volunteers at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper program are certainly doing their part.

In 2011, about 200 volunteers gave over 12,500 hours to this program!  2012 will certainly be no exception with over 100 people volunteering in the past four months alone, accounting for 3600 hours.

Over the next few days we will be highlighting the people who work behind the scenes to make a program like ours possible.  While all of our volunteers have different reasons for volunteering at the EFHP, each and every one of them share the common goal of wanting to provide food assistance to those in need of food in our community.

We recognize not only the gift of time that volunteers give programs like ours, but we also acknowledge those extra touches that a volunteer can provide.  Sometimes when the lobby is packed with people waiting, it can be easy to forget about the individuals and families behind the numbers.  The volunteers here seem to be ever in tune with the fact that, while we may be quite busy, it can be those personal touches that can put a patron at ease or provide them with some comfort in what may be one of the most difficult seasons of their life.  So for this, and the many other things that volunteers bring to a program like ours, we salute the great works of volunteers here and beyond the walls of 807 Guelph Street.

From all of us at House of Friendship, we say ‘thank you’.

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.