Posts Tagged ‘volunteerism’

Volunteer Spotlight: Mike C.

September 16, 2013

Mike C photo

The best sports teams depend on positional players: good pitchers, quarterbacks or goalies. But the same teams also depend on “utility players.” These highly capable men and women play a range of positions at a high level, filling in where needed. Mike C is a superb utility player on the EFHP team, contributing since the day he signed his (volunteer) contract in January 2010. When I tracked him down for this interview he was packing two hampers at the same time—half an hour after he was scheduled to go home for the day. An hour earlier he’d been up to his elbows in cabbage, sorting a big donation.

HOF: How did you hear about House of Friendship?

MC: I started packing Christmas hampers in 2009. From there I learned about the Emergency Food Hamper Program. [Like the EFHP, the Christmas Hamper Program is one of House of Friendship’s “Community Services,” and has provided a gift of food to families and individuals living on low income since 1964.]

HOF: What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

MC: Lots of different things. I appreciate and enjoy helping others, and using my free time in a constructive and positive way. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to develop relationships with volunteers and Program patrons, who come from all walks of life. Working alongside these good and interesting people continues to be rewarding.

HOF: What’s your favourite job at our program?

MC: Everything! [HOF scouts confirm this response.] I enjoy packing hampers, bagging and sorting fruit, and stocking the shelves. Whatever is required that day.

HOF: How has volunteering impacted your life?

MC: I’ve been dealing with a medical condition over the last few years, and volunteering has helped me recover in a number of important ways. I had to take time off work, and coming in to the EFHP has helped me res-establish a normal schedule. By working here I’ve also regained a lot of my strength and endurance, which has been great for me. Finally, my time here has been educational. I’ve learned about the EFHP, but also about the needs in our community. Some days I barely get to sit down, we are so busy meeting those needs.

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

MC: I’ve coached minor hockey in Waterloo four different years, from tykes up to Bantam rep. I grew up playing hockey in Waterloo, and AA baseball.

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

MC: I am an avid sports fan, especially the Blue Jays and Kitchener Rangers. [HOF scouting reports confirm this as well.] I also love playing sports, and in addition to hockey and baseball, I bowl and golf. [I had to ask, but Mike finally admitted that his bowling high score is 356!]

At this point, Mike had to get back to work, and of course I couldn’t keep an All-Star on the bench! Thanks for pitching in whenever and wherever we need you Mike. Your hard work and positive attitude help keep the EFHP team on the right track. We’ve served over 23,000 hampers already this year, and it’s only possible because of volunteers like Mike.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rolf W.

May 22, 2013

Rolf W.

Rolf has been volunteering packing hampers for just over 7 years now, and showing no signs of slowing down. He comes in every Monday and even though he works hard the whole time, somehow manages to finish the entire crossword puzzle in the break room without anyone noticing. It was great to sit down with one of our long time regular volunteers.

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

I heard about it through the YMCA, where I volunteered for a long time. A few people I knew from there were very involved with the House of Friendship, so I decided to give it a try.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I enjoy it very much—it gives me a sense of feeling I’m contributing in some small way to people who need help. I enjoy working with my fellow volunteers, they all have a great sense of humour. After volunteering here I feel a great sense of accomplishment.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I like packing hampers, it keeps me busy. The quotas change all the time so it really keeps me on my toes. I like helping in other areas when it’s slow too, like packing meat. I enjoy that volunteering here is very hands on.

How has volunteering impacted your life?

I’m retired, so it’s given me an opportunity to get involved with people outside of sports and leisure.

Is there one experience of helping here that sticks out in your mind?

I remember once a young girl was by herself getting a hamper. She was in tears because she hadn’t been here before and she felt like she was taking advantage. I had to explain that our service is available to her for when she needs it, and I tried to encourage her. I’ll always remember that she left with a smile.

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

I volunteered with the YMCA for 20 years at the front desk mostly. I was also on their advisory council.

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

I love golfing and travelling to different countries. The best place I’ve been is Santorini in Greece. I also like doing crosswords and Sudoku. I’ve collected coins since I was 12 years old. At home my partner and I love hiking—we’ve done almost half of the Bruce Trail started in the Niagara area.

I appreciate Rolf taking the time to share a bit about himself and why he has been coming here for so long. It’s great that we have dedicated volunteers to make life a little bit easier for those who come in for food. Thanks Rolf!

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.”

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Friendship, the gift to give on day 8 of 12 Days for Good

December 17, 2012

One of the hardest things about getting older is the lack of social opportunities as your mobility, vision and hearing decreases. It becomes harder to get around and sometimes, in poor weather you are stuck at home because you can’t manage slippery stairs or icy sidewalks.

“I broke my leg, and then my toe” an elderly food hamper patron told me on the phone the other day, “all from when I slipped in the snow. Last week, I had to cancel all of my appointments because it snowed and I was too afraid – I don’t want to go through all of that again.”

In my own life, my grandpa is in his late seventies and struggles with the changes to his life that come with age. Because of his health he found himself unable to go out in public, things that he had previously enjoyed doing, like camping and canoeing, had to end. He can turn to family like myself and my father, through ill health and stress, both of which play havoc with his memory and make it harder for him to manage things like his finances and get to vital appointments.  Not everyone is like my grandpa though.  They may not have any family left, and struggle with social isolation.

Want to know how you can help? (more…)

There is no place like home on day 3 of 12 Days

December 12, 2012

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Home is not a long word.  Only four letters. But for being such a short word, it has a lot of weight.  It is a big deal.  What can you do if you don’t have a home?  Today, Allison, the program coordinator of Eby Village shared Andrea’s story with me:

“After moving from shelter to shelter, I was so happy when I received the news that I was accepted at Eby village. For the first time in my life, I had my own private space and I finally had my own kitchen where I could cook my own meals.

 I shared my new home with other people who were in similar circumstance as me, such as being on social assistance, and coming from homelessness.  I have met people with different personalities and each person has brought something unique to my life.  I have learned things I never would have thought from people in the building such as gardening, cooking, and arts and crafts. I’ve stayed close with the people I’ve befriended throughout my 15 years of living at Eby Village and I have grown as an individual.

Having my own private space has brought me security, and my confidence has grown by participating in community activities. I hope everyone can have a home like Eby Village because it gives people autonomy, a feeling of self worth, and increases self esteem. Your own home gives you a place to invite your friends and family to that you feel proud of, and you don’t have the influence of alcohol and drugs so you can live the way you want to and work on becoming the best person you can be. “

Looking the story over, Andrea said “People aren’t going to believe that someone from Eby Village wrote this!  Most people think we can’t even read and write.”           

The message is this story is simple – if you give someone a home, they have the opportunity to thrive. But the reality in our region and across Canada is not everyone has access to a safe, affordable, and acceptable home, and as Andrea points out, barriers and stereotypes still remain.  In a survey  done by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA), there are  over 156, 358 Ontario households waiting for affordable housing like that offered in Eby Village, and more than 3,000 people waiting for housing in the region of Waterloo alone – year after year, this list continues to grow. The wait time for families, singles and seniors is on average 2-3 years which indicates the need for more affordable housing options, particularly for those in deep need. (more…)

Kartoffel-Blitz!

February 17, 2012

Potato Blitz mascot Spuddy enjoys a photo op at your local FreshCo

The German word blitz has a lot of different meanings.  What exactly is a potato blitz?  Is it some sort of food? Are they going to be falling from the sky?

Well, you don’t have to worry about getting a helmet. And on the bright side, it will involve eating – but I’ll get to that in a little bit.  For us at House of Friendship, blitz means a short, focused effort.  As you may already know, the  Potato Blitz is a one month push to collect as many potatoes as we can so that we can share with the people who turn to us for help.  With me so far?

In just 15 days (between Don Cameron Potato Night and this last Saturday) many, many people have stepped up, pitched in and shared a gift with us:  a gift of potatoes, some kind words of support and a lot of smiles!

I’ve written about Don Cameron Potato Night already.  Last Saturday, it was the second major blitz event, House of Friendship’s annual Supermarket Blitz.  The Supermarket Blitz is a one day community wide effort, where volunteers, staff, friends and family visit local grocery stores and ask their neighbours for some potatoes to help the less fortunate members of our community.  What a day!

In the space of a few hours we received over 22 skids of potatoes from shoppers at 26 different stores across the region!  When combined with the financial donations that were made as well, we collected the equivalent of 102,000 pounds of potatoes!  When we add that to the donations we accepted at Don Cameron Potato night we are only 12,000 pounds away from our goal of 200,000 pound goal.

House of Friendship staff and volunteers take a break in front of some of the 22 skids that were collected during the annual Supermarket Blitz

What’s left now?  We are always accepting donations of more potatoes and other food items.  More info on how you can help here. Every single spud will make a difference to the people we serve, who, are coming to us in record numbers.  This last January was the busiest month in the history of the emergency food hamper program, with 3491 hampers going out our doors to fill empty kitchen cupboards in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Each potato and dollar that is donated this month will help us put food on families tables for most of the coming year. Thanks to Jay West, a local food retailer in St. Jacobs, we will be able to store the spuds in the right conditions so they are still perfect when we need them in the coming months.

Are you planning on attending the community potato lunch next Friday?  It will be between 12 and 1pm, Friday February 24th at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kitchener.  Last years lunch (post here) was a huge success and you can look forward to more great company, and the second (critically acclaimed) soup idol contest where local’s try and win the favour of the judges with their best potato soup recipe.  This year we expect some serious competition. (Do you think your soup recipe is a winner?  We’re still looking for people to compete – you can contact Jenn at 519-742-8327 for more info.)

How high can you leap?

February 8, 2012

February 29 is a day that you don’t get to enjoy very often.  That’s because it only shows up every four years (for most people that is, usually… it’s kind of complicated. There’s more info here). Why do we get to enjoy it in 2012?

It’s a leap year!

What would you do with an extra day in the calendar?  Well, a local teen, named Madi, asked herself this, and wondered if everyone would really appreciate it.  Would it be an extra day of joy, or just another day of struggle?

Madi says: “Through the good and the bad, it always helps to know that someone cares about you.”  She wanted to show that an extra day is something for everyone to celebrate and decided to find 29 ways to prove it.  So, she started a social media campaign to share the idea and get out an important and powerful message: showing others that you care is important and easy to do.

Everything you do for others, no matter how big or small makes a difference for all of us.

If you made a resolution this year to pitch in and help others, this is your chance!

It could be 29 cans of food at your local grocery store donation bin.  It could be 29 kind words to strangers you pass in the street.  29 cents, 29 dollars – you decide how much you want to do and for whom.  But, be sure to share!

You can check out Madi’s campaign on her webpage, youtube channel, twitter and facebook page.  Not sure how you can help?  There are tips, examples and lots of info on ways to take 29 leaps towards a better community.

If you want to take part in this fantastic push to do good for others, consider sharing some of your time this Saturday with House of Friendship’s Potato Blitz.  We are still looking for volunteers!  You can find out more details here or by calling Jenn at 519-742-8327 extension 0.  Help us reach our goal of 200,000lbs of potatoes!

Swimming in a sea of potatoes

January 27, 2012

At the beginning of each year we rest briefly, celebrate the past year, take a deep breath and try and catch up with our many volunteers who are sprinting ahead of us, leading the way and talking with our community about something very simple, yet very important.

What is that?

Potatoes.

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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.

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.