Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We need your summer clothes!

We've finally reached a (fairly) consistent +10° in Waterloo Region, hallelujah!

After a long winter gratefully accepting your preowned winter coats and other cold weather gear, FoodLove is now ready to switch gears and start begging asking for your preowned summer gear.

While we have some clothes left from last year, our summer wardrobe is looking a little bare, especially in the kids area.

We are currently in need of lighter clothing for kids (and adults!) of all ages but especially ranging from kid sizes 4 (m/f) to size 10 (m/f).

You know it's time to clean out those drawers so why not give us a call or email us at foodlovekw@gmail.com to arrange for a pickup of clothes that'll make a huge difference to a local family this summer!

** All clothing from the FoodLove Clothing Closet is provided free of charge to area families and shelters in need. To find out more about FoodLove and our services, please visit our website. Thank you for your consistent generosity Waterloo Region, we are proud to make your random acts of kindness come together to make a big impact!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Show Your Volunteers Some Love

It's National Volunteer Week! To the 13.3 million  volunteers in Canada, we salute you.

From running hockey teams to fundraising for homeless shelters, to packing food at the food bank and organizing great community events, volunteers are all around us. They feed our children, keep our streets clean and safe and build stunning websites for social profits orgs.

So how do we give thanks for the people who really make our community what it is?

Volunteer recognition is an important part of the volunteer selection and retention process. Knowing your volunteer's reasons for giving their time is an important indicator to how you can say thanks.

Say Thank You - It's underrated. People like to feel appreciated and for most, a sincere thank you is enough.

Send a Card - Handwritten or at least hand signed, whenever possible.

Lunch - Who doesn't love free food? Invite your volunteers to a volunteer appreciation breakfast, a dessert night, afternoon tea or a barbecue to show your thanks. This event will also give you a great opportunity to highlight great achievements in the previous years campaign and to energize your team for the coming year.

Personalized Chocolate Bars - 2 years ago I was gifted a Hershey bar from an organization. They made personalized labels for all their volunteers and the Board of Directors wrapped all those chocolate bars while conducting a meeting. Talk about multi-tasking!

Service Medals - Recognize your volunteers yearly (monthly, weekly) but also make a big deal out of milestones. Many organizations hand out service medals (often keychains) acknowledging memorable dates and years of service.

Learning Opportunities - Year after year, I ask my own volunteers what they'd like as appreciation for a job well done. Typically, the first answer is almost always "A raise" (big jokers around here!) but next on the list is something to do. We've organized days at the museum (including spouses and family, of course), rented a movie theatre, had an expert come to us to teach container gardening and made arrangements to tour a local building that is rarely seen by outsiders.

Volunteers are a pretty easy-going, loving bunch. They appreciate you when you say a simple thank you and they appreciate you when you make a big hullabaloo with all the trimmings. The best gift you can give to someone who gives their time to you is to give some of yours back. While you think that signing your name to 50 cards is not that big of a deal, your volunteers are extremely touched that you took the time to personally sign their cards.

So go on, get out there and say thank you to some volunteers this week!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Behalf of the Mayor

Our first meeting was when I was 5 years old. He came over, said hello and asked my name. Then, he gave me a pen and a pin.

For the next 2 years, each Friday at breakfast, I watched him with curiosity as he moved around the room. I watched him as he ate breakfast. I watched him as he let his breakfast grow cold as he talked to a local about her daughter's issues at school.

"He's the Mayor" my mom told me.

On Friday April 22, 1988 I finally spoke to him of my own accord. "I'm working on a project. Can you tell me about the people you meet as Mayor?"

For the next 3 weeks, we spent Friday mornings together, greeting people at the small downtown Kitchener restaurant. We talked about babies and grandchildren, we talked about parks and camps, we spoke with every single person who came in on those days, not about what he wanted to speak about but what they wanted to speak about.

On May 20, 1988 I was waiting as he strolled into the restaurant. Excitedly, I showed him my project. A big red "A" at the top of the page.

"You deserve to be Mayor of the Day" he declared, before giving me an entire baggie full of pins and a handful of pens my small hands hand no chance of gripping. I spent the rest of that day handing out those pens, "On behalf of Mayor Dom" I told each person I met.

We continued to meet at breakfast each week. The venue changed, the man never did. Over 7 more years, I completed 4 more projects featuring him and his relationship with the people in our city.

He taught me about politics. Not about how to win and not about how to make policy but how to make friends. He taught me how to make people feel worthy, even within the confines of a 2 minute conversation.

He wrote me a recommendation letter for college. I sent him a thank you note with a City of Kitchener pin slipped inside.

In June of 2002, we met for the final time. We were both walking in Victoria Park and happened upon each other. I knew who he was but was sure that several years had dulled his memory of me. I was wrong. A handshake and a hug before we fell into a slow step beside each other. We spoke of school and families, marriage and career. We stopped often, reaching down to pick up garbage. He dipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a paper bag. "No plastic" he told me.

He was my first and most most memorable mentor. He didn't teach me about business, he taught me about people. He often spoke of relationships and taught me his secrets to remembering names and info about the people he would meet. It was an odd affiliation we had... from my childhood to teen-dom and eventually, married in my 20's. For him, the start of his Mayoral career to beyond his retirement and closing in on the start of ill health.

He had time for every person. He championed change and growth in our city. He taught me how to make change in my city, not necessarily within political confines but within the scope of kinship.

To Mayor Dom Cardillo, your life and your character helped shape mine. Your memory in Kitchener will be marked with pens, pins and the rapport you had with almost every citizen. This Saturday, when I treat my sons to breakfast out I will present them with a City of Kitchener pin. I will tell them they're on behalf of Mayor Dom. And then we'll travel to the place where you and I had our final meeting, to join our community in cleaning the park for Earth Day. I can't give you as much as you gave me but I can give you this.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Find The Good

Our prayer for Boston and beyond:

We will take a stand.
Not because we are afraid but because we are strong.
That we will not allow their fear, anger and hate to enter our own hearts
and that we will encompass each other in love and peacefulness.
That we may remember the good outnumber the evil
and that love can heal wounds.

And now it's time for the good:

Much love from us all on the FoodLove KW team <3 

Friday, April 12, 2013

It Ain't All About the Cristal

What do rappers worry about? Probably the same things everyone else is...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Meet the new FoodLove KW team!

What exciting news I have to share today! Last summer, I started approaching some amazing local folks  about joining the yet to be formed FoodLove executive committee. With FoodLove growing larger and even bigger plans in the works, it was definitely time to have some people dedicated to backing me up and helping me make some important decisions.

This January, Kari Thompson and Greg Huber joined the team. Kari is a lifelong friend of mine who works in the not for profit sector and Greg is a new friend, a tradesperson who's ready to lend us (me) his considerable business sense and bring FoodLove to new heights.

Both Kari and Greg started tweeting from the FoodLove twitter account over a month ago and are putting in big hours building our new and improved clothing closet, a financial plan and just a wee bit more structure to my little ragtag operation. Please join me in sharing a big group hug with these new folks and saying THANK YOU, for helping FoodLove become a force to be reckoned with in KW!

Much Love, 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giving Back to TED

It was a really hard decision for me to not apply to attend TEDxWaterloo this year. I attended my first event last March in Waterloo and have been to one other event since. I start almost every day with a TED talk. I really love the events but when the applications came out this year I had my head tugging me in another direction.

I'm a doer. I'm a thinker as well but I really, really flourish when I'm doing something.

So I made the decision this year that instead of spending the day thinking and listening, I'm going to devote my TED day to doing. Between appointments and other obligations I will be volunteering at a church food bank, helping some low income folks fill out their taxes and delivering a big batch of clothes from the FoodLove clothing closet to some local agencies.

Now I know that I'm always doing something to help others but this year, it was important for me to devote this specific day to really giving back to my community. In some ways, this is also giving back to TED. In the 2 events I've been to this year, I've been given a lot. I've been inspired a lot and in my own way, since I don't have any money to give them, this is the next best way I can give back to an organization that's given me oh-so-much.

To those attending TEDxWaterloo tomorrow, I hope you have a joyful and inspiring day. I also hope that you'll share the love with the rest of us by tweeting and blogging.

Happy trails!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Donating Creatively

Photo Credit: trenttsd
We often think of donating our old clothes to organizations that call our homes or to events like Open Closet. We give money at the cash register, through the mail and online. Sometimes these donations are large and sometimes they are small. One thing that connects us all is that we always wish we could do more, give more.

I'll often have a charity contact me for a financial donation that I can't give. I will in turn ask them what physical needs their organization might have. Beware the organization that tells you they require your money and only your money! Oftentimes an organization may be in need of something I have that I no longer need and other times, they are in need of something that I can reach out to my community for.

Ask questions, get informed and don't be afraid to appeal to your personal and business ties to solicit help for any organization you believe in.

Think outside the box!

  • Old instruments lying around? Ask you local school, daycare or community centre if they could use them.

  • An older printer, scanner, computer speakers etc? MANY organizations are always in need of these items that just aren't in the budget. Before you just drop it off at a recycling centre, contact your favourite charity and ask if they are in need.

  • Furniture? Before dropping it off at a thrift store, contact your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen and ask if they have someone moving out that is in need.

  • Renovating? Be careful with your demolition and drop off light fixtures, cabinets, windows, doors and old paint to a Habitat ReStore.

  • Last year's pencil crayons, binders, rulers and pencil cases? Call an elementary school and see if they  can give it to a kid in need.

Continue to think outside the box for new donations as well. While you may not be able to go out and buy a full school year setup for another kid, you can incorporate those purchases into every dollar store trip you make during the year. One of my kids likes to help other kids, the other loves animals. So every time we go to the dollar store we will buy a stationary item and a pet item. We stash them away and a few times a year, we'll make a trip to the Humane Society to drop off food and toys for pets and to various community centres to make up school packs for kids in need.

When you're short on disposable income it can make it seem hard to donate but with a little ingenuity, you can make every spring cleaning an effort in changing the world around you!

Happy giving!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Coldest Night of the Year

On January 23, almost 4000 people in 38 cities people across the country will be walking in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser supporting charities that serve the hungry, homeless and hurting in communities across Canada.

Our local team in Kitchener/Waterloo walks to raise money for Ray of Hope, a Kitchener charity you've seen before on this blog.

This Saturday one of our local teams, Team Hope, will be at the Kitchener Market on the lower level taking $5 donations for the walk. With your $5 donation, you'll be donating a toque, hand lotion and enough cash to feed someone 2 meals for Ray of Hope.

Where else can you get value for a donation like that? 

Of course, if your heart directs you to give $20 or more, a charitable receipt will be issued to you, along with out heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

So Team Hope is eager to see you this Saturday February 9 on the lower level of the Kitchener Market to send a little love, a little food and a little warmth to Ray of Hope and the people they serve in our community. If you can't make it out, we certainly won't complain if you'd like to donate to the team online here... we'll even make sure we donate a hat and lotion on your behalf!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Being Poor

Stephanie is an amazing woman I've worked with closely this last year. She's a hard-working mother, often working over 50 hours a week between 2 jobs to keep her family afloat. I asked her to send me some her thoughts on what life is like as a member of the working poor and this is what she had to say: 

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.
Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.
Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.
Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
Being poor is answering the interviewer's illegal question because if you say you don't have to answer that you know you'll never get the job.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
Being poor is running in place.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Remembering Kelsey

Last week I had a morning I wasn't expecting. I woke up in the morning, ready to start my day and quickly learned that the body of a murdered young woman had a name... and it was a name I knew. And loved.

Kelsey Felker was a beautiful girl, inside and out. I first met her through running the FoodLove clothing closet and over time, she became a donor as well as a recipient. I've watched her give food to others when she didn't have enough of her own, I've watched her shake as she tried to give up the drugs she was so dependant on and I've hugged her as she sobbed over a life she thought she'd never have a chance to see.

Tonight, our community has the chance to come together and pay respect to a young woman who would have found another route in life, who would have made a real impact on Waterloo Region...

if only she had the chance

Whether you knew her or not, I implore everyone in KW to join us at 9 pm tonight, Kitchener City Hall to make a stand, show support and send this young woman a farewell befitting her generous and compassionate soul.

Kelsey Felker Memorial
Monday February 4, 2013
Kitchener City Hall
9 pm

Friday, February 1, 2013

Not All Wedding Are Created Equal

My hubby and I got married in 2000. I was 19 and our wedding matched our youth. Cheap and quick. The two of us didn't care much what our wedding looked like as long as we were together and frankly, our families weren't too keen on helping us make it any better because we were too young, didn't know better, la dee da.

Sadly, some family members didn't even come to our wedding because they said, "I'd be surprised if it even lasts 6 months."

On that day, in my mind, it was perfect. We had a lovely ceremony with 30 of our closest friends and family in the chapel at Kitchener City Hall. The reception was held in the gorgeous backyard of my aunt and uncle's house, with a tent for the food, a pool for cooling down and just a wonderful family get together. My family came together to make the food, people brought presents and we just had fun.

Looking back at it, I think the only thing I hated about my wedding was the cake. That cake is probably the reason I later went into the cake making business, pricing my wares low enough that even the poor bride could afford a beautiful wedding cake. Mine was purchased by my stepfather's girlfriend, from Zehrs. Just a slab that said Congratulations and our names. I'd show you a pic but our wedding photos were lost long ago in a fire. To top it off, the crappy tasting slab cake was set upon a table decorated with a rooster tablecloth. Any photographs that did get taken showed that lovely rooster pattern in the back. It wasn't pretty.

I'm sure that roosters were harmed in the making of this tablecloth. Quick! Someone call PETA!

So why am I telling you my wedding story?

Because if this is the route that your wedding is going, there is a chance to change its direction!

Wedding Saviours has a local team in Kitchener Waterloo that wants to bring a dream wedding to a couple in need. Applications are open now and the dream wedding will be held in the fall. The team is looking for couples who have been planning to marry but have been affected by some sort of hardship. Maybe you know someone who has lost their job, experienced a severe illness or been in an accident? Perhaps you know someone who's just been putting it off because every time they get ahead in the planning and saving for their wedding something unexpected happens and depletes their savings.

Wedding Saviours can rescue them!

Couples apply and then compete in a series of community challenges, the list gets whittled down until there are 3 couples vying for a free wedding. The final challenges will produce a winning couple who will then work with the Wedding Saviours team of professionals to put on the wedding of their dreams. The KW Wedding Saviours team has thought of everything... they have pros ready to assist you with the dress and tux, hair, nails, flowers, decor, photography, makeup, videography and more!

I've fallen in love with the Wedding Saviours idea because it's a project giving people just a little more than they need. Do we NEED big fancy weddings? No. Really, the wedding is only a public declaration of a couples vow to each other. But do we want our weddings to be fabulous, representing how beautiful our love is for our partner? Absolutely. And that's where Wedding Saviours comes in.

So pass this on to someone who deserves a wedding with all the bells and whistles. Pass this on to a girl who deserves to have gorgeous flowers and a pretty (non-grocery store) cake. Then encourage them to visit the Wedding Saviours website, where they can apply and hopefully you'll see their smiling faces on this blog in a few months when we start encouraging the community to vote for the most deserving couple.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What does $650/month rent in Saskatoon get you?

This ad posted on kijiji Saskatoon is very close to reality in many large cities with an affordable housing or tough rental market.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Family Volunteering

When Christmas arrives each year I get inundated with emails asking me where families can volunteer over the holidays. Knowing that so many long term volunteer positions start with one-off experiences I'm eager to get families volunteering but it can be a difficult task.

First, you need to look at your family make up. Families come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes my requests have even run to "My family of 16, ranging in age from 18 months to 76 years want to volunteer on Christmas Day instead of having our typical big family dinner". For others, family volunteering may just be a husband and wife team, 3 sisters or a couple with a gaggle of kids. Where you volunteer as a family depends largely on your family make up, one size does definitely not fit all.

Next, you'll want to sit down as a family and think about what your priorities are. What kinds of causes are you interested in and what critical needs do you see in your community? List as many as you can and start narrowing them down.

Lastly, you'll need to decide what your commitment will be, whether this is  one-off volunteer experience or whether you want to make a longer term investment, be it weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even as regular special event volunteers.

Made a decision yet? Here are a few suggestions and tips:

- If you have teens over the age of 14, you win at this game! At 14, most teens can volunteer anywhere (although some organizations have their own age rules). With teens I often find it is important to let your teens pick causes that are important to them, it'll make getting out the door and to the job a whole lot easier. Consider:
          - Volunteering at a local music festival.
          - Collecting items to donate to a local teen shelter like Covenant House.
          - Helping a charity thrift shop put on a fashion show fundraiser.

 - Everyone in your extended family, including Grandma, Uncle Henry and cousin Louise? First, make sure that EVERYONE is on board and that it's not being forced by one or two eager beavers.

          - Contact your local Out of the Cold  shelter, homeless shelter or soup
            kitchen. These places often have teams come in to serve dinners but
            calendars can fill up fast so call early.
          - Invite everyone to fundraise and come out for a charity walk/run/bike,
            it's a great way to get everyone involved without having to worry about
            the vast age range participating.

photo credit: http://mayorshealthline.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/walking-for-a-cause/
- Couple? Sisters? Brothers? Again, you win! As long as you're an adult, you can pick just about any volunteer job you wish. Volunteer with TED, take in foster dogs, be a driver for Meals on Wheels or join Big Brothers/Big Sisters... the possibilities are endless!

- Young children? This. This is the tough one. It's what prompted me to form FoodLove... I had the hardest time finding a place to volunteer where my kids could join in. You can go kamikaze and do your own thing, be it collecting change to build wells overseas, take your singing skills to a local retirement home or cook pots of soup to deliver to local shelters. But there are some other options:
          - The Humane Society/SPCA often is in need of dog walkers and kitty
          - Many towns have a Best Buddies program, matching kids up with a buddy
            that has physical or developmental issues
          - Lastly, you can always have the kids join you! I volunteer with Nutrition
            For Learning and while my kids don't have "jobs" there, they have created
            jobs for themselves each morning. They clean the tables, put away
            toothbrushes and gym equipment after all the other children
            have left for school. It's short and sweet and it's the perfect beginner job
            for little guys who have short attention spans.

photo credit: http://money.howstuffworks.com/economics/volunteer/opportunities/volunteer-opportunities-for-kids.htm
In the end, there is a volunteer job out there for EVERYONE. You can make as much or as little of a commitment as you want and if you don't find what you're looking for, you can create your own opportunity. Web developers are always in need at small non-profits, people comfortable at public speaking can be used to promote charities and give tours within an organization. Picking up trash in the park, shovelling a neighbour's driveway or cooking a casserole for someone whose spouse is in the hospital are all great volunteer opportunities that you can fit into your existing schedule.

Get your volunteer on!