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The Power of Community – Jerome’s Appliance Gallery

“I don’t even know these guys but I love them.”  

Located one block east of Macleod Trail in SE Calgary is Jerome’s Appliance Gallery, a luxury appliance retailer. Their Bistro features two fully functional kitchens, and a group of people passionate about taking action to end hunger in our city.

Once a week Devon, Jerome’s Accounting Manager, and Kristen, Jerome’s Bistro Specialist, prepare lunches for students at West View School at Calgary Youth Attendance Centre (CYAC), located only a few blocks away. Jerome’s purchases all the food for the lunches and Kristen shares her amazing cooking skills to create an array of delectable meals.

“Food is medicine; food is what makes our bodies work properly, what is better than giving kids a proper start with whole food?”

“On Wednesdays I come into work early,” shares Kristen, “I have all my groceries and ingredients and I like to do a lot of baking too so I come in early and make cookies, muffins, things that are healthy and whole foods but still appeal to teenagers. I’ll get everything prepped, Devon will come in and we will cook for about 16 people or so, sandwiches, wraps, baked goods, pizzas, soups, chili, whatever we make that day we make it all from scratch that morning and have it ready to go for lunch.” Kristen continues, “It’s so easy to take time out of your day for something like this, for something so simple you can make a huge difference. Food is medicine; food is what makes our bodies work properly, what is better than giving kids a proper start with whole food? You’re supporting their systems as they grow, supporting their brains, it’s everything, we’re trying to give them a better start, a better base to go on.”

“West View School at Calgary Youth Attendance Centre (CYAC) is a small, personalized school that provides opportunities for justice-engaged youth to explore career possibilities and complete a high school diploma. Two dedicated, veteran Calgary Board of Education teachers, supported by Solicitor General staff, deliver curricula, provide trades and career opportunities, and mentor youth,” shares West View Program Teacher Mary-Lynn. “Around 10:00 a.m., our students start asking, ‘What’s for lunch today?’ When we say it’s coming from Jerome’s, so it’s a surprise, they start to guess with each other what it might be. We love getting food from Jerome’s. This is a high-impact community builder. We have long said that youth will come for the food, but stay for the education. We are grateful that Jerome’s makes the menu interesting and healthy for our students.”

The Jerome’s team is an amazing supporter of the BB4CK community. In addition to their community group, the Jerome’s community has planned and supported fundraisers, volunteered in the kitchen, and participated as a summer Food Finder site. “When you’re thinking about supporting a charity, look local, support your own community, support people, your friends, coworkers, neighbours. If you donate money you know where that money is going, if you donate time, you are able to see what that time creates and where it goes,” says Devon. “Donating your time too is such a different feeling knowing you can do these things and make a positive impact on somebody’s life. Support a local charity that you can invest a lot into. It’s very rewarding.”

“These kids could be my son’s friends, his classmates…”

“Having a child myself really made me feel connected to the cause and made me feel these kids could be my son’s friends, his classmates, they could be his teammates and those kids are going without things we take for granted so much, it hit home for me,” says Devon. “It’s such a small thing for us to do and it makes such a big difference for the kids, which I think is what makes BB4CK such a great cause.”

Stockings Filled with Love and Care

The connection Jerome’s has created with West View at CYAC has led to more than lunches. “Last Christmas we decided to put together some stockings for the students,” shares Devon. “Kristen and I went out on a little mission, we went to the dollar store, to Tim Hortons, and we loaded the stockings full. Every kid wants to get candy and chocolate in their stockings so we got that but we also incorporated the things they would need like toiletries, toques, gloves, mitts, socks, things they’d need working outside, since a lot of them are going into the trades. We thought about what they would really like and also really need and we put it all together into a stocking, we hand decorated the stockings with their names in glitter pens and delivered them along with the lunches that day. Just to see their expressions and gratitude they felt, it was emotional and made it all worth it.”

“As we were driving back, I turned to Devon and said, “I don’t even know these guys but I love them.” They were so excited and so grateful, watching them open the stockings and look at everything, and just seeing their eyes light up was my emotional moment,” shares Kristen.

Learn more about getting your business involved here.

Your Lunch For Jennifer

“I remember the Monday everything changed.

I was 8 years old. I sat in the corner of the lunchroom, head down, trying to be invisible. My stomach hurt and my head ached.

I was hungry, and a BB4CK lunch changed that. This is why I’m forever grateful for you.

On this particular Monday, the lunchroom supervisor, Mrs. Porter noticed me. She saw that none of the other kids were talking to me. She watched as everyone dug into their lunch – everyone except me. She looked at me sitting alone in the corner, trying to ignore everyone else eating. She knew I was craving their food, and also, their friendship.

I was hungry and lonely and wishing one of the other kids would share their lunch with me.

I was the only kid in my class without a lunch. I was also the only one with shoes one size too small, and a torn and tattered backpack. I was different – and different meant I had no friends.

That is, until Mrs. Porter noticed me.

I don’t know much about her, but that day, in my 3rd grade mind, Mrs. Porter was a superhero.

This was just another Monday with nothing to eat. Sitting in the corner, I was counting down the minutes until I could go back to my classroom. Then, a voice, “Is your name Jennifer?” I looked up and into the eyes of Mrs. Porter. She gave me a small smile and held out a sandwich in a plastic bag.

“Would you like an egg salad sandwich?” she offered.

My eyes must have said it all, because before I squeaked out “Yes”, she had placed it in my hands. It was the best sandwich I had ever eaten – and with it came a couple carrots, some apple slices, and a homemade cheese biscuit.

Every day after that, when I walked into the lunchroom, Mrs. Porter was waiting for me with a lunch and a kind word. I noticed that other kids sometimes got a lunch from Mrs. Porter too. One day, Mrs. Porter asked if I’d like to sit with her and Alina. Mrs. Porter asked about our days, our school work, and our families, while Alina and I ate our egg salad sandwiches together.

I was no longer hungry, and I had made a new friend. That’s why I’m grateful for you and BB4CK.

The lunch that Mrs. Porter gave me every day came from BB4CK. She told me that each lunch was made by someone who cared for me and wanted me to succeed. That lunch was more than just a sandwich to me. That lunch gave me a sense of belonging and a full stomach.

Now, thinking back to all those years ago, I am deeply grateful for the difference you made in my life. Those lunches gave me hope. They changed everything.”

*Based on a true story

November Volunteer Spotlight – Rose and Barb

Meet Rose and Barb, two of our amazing volunteer drivers who deliver lunches to hungry kids across the city!

Rose

“My name is Rose and I am a delivery driver for Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids.  I have been volunteering with BB4CK for about 6 years now.  I started because my sister [Cathy] works there, and I would come to the kitchen with her and help out wherever there was a need to make sure no kids go hungry. I really enjoyed it and realized that helping others was something I liked to do.  I pick up lunches from a community kitchen group that feeds 6 schools in our neighborhood.  I started delivery driving over 2 years ago and the best part is meeting the school staff,  stopping to chat and hearing how these lunches are so appreciated and impact kids in need.  I look forward to delivering as it always brings a smile to my face and I am very thankful that I am able to do this to help someone in need, at this point in my life.”

Barb with Cooper and Finn

 

“I drive lunches to schools Thursday mornings along with my assistants Pat, my husband, and my best [furry] friends Cooper and Finn. By chance, I saw info about BB4CK on TV and thought it might be a perfect volunteer job for me-and it definitely is! This is our third year with Brown Bagging. Time flies. As a retired teacher I understand how important nutrition is for a child’s ability to learn. Being hungry should never be an obstacle in any child’s learning. My favourite part of delivering lunches is walking into schools and feeling the energy within. Quick encounters with students and staff remind me that schools are busy, vibrant, and focused on the education of our children.” – Barb

Become a Volunteer Delivery Driver!

Action and Impact for Hungry Kids in Symons Valley

“I always wanted to do something in my community and nothing really threw itself at me like this opportunity did,” says Kim, as she seals baggies with sandwiches in them. It’s Wednesday morning and Kim and a mighty team of volunteers are making lunches in the kitchen of Symons Valley United Church in NW Calgary. Feeding kids at four schools in their neighbourhood, the volunteers swiftly slice celery, portion carrots and snacks and prepare a variety of sandwiches.

“I love getting out of the house twice a week to come and visit with our group, our little family that makes lunches together. I buy the groceries, bring them here, we make the lunches and deliver them directly to the schools. It’s nice to see this happen, because otherwise these kids wouldn’t get lunch. This might be the best nutrition they get today, so that keeps us going,” Kim shares.

Volunteers Pierre and Maryanne have volunteered for two community groups in their neighbourhood, moving from the Bow Valley Community group to Symons Valley when it began in February of 2018. “We were asked if we might move over here, they needed more help at this end of the community because this group had picked up more schools,” explains Maryanne. “If you want to get ahead in school you need good health. Part of the health side of it is having good food in your belly, healthy food leads to healthy minds. It feels good to know we are providing for these kids at school.”

“I’m the veggie king,” Pierre says with a smile, “I do the veggies, I don’t do the sandwiches, they’re too complex – they have two sides, you’ve got to fold them in the middle… I stick to veggies,” he shares with a laugh. “We’ve got a good life. We’ve worked hard and made it to retirement, and this is a good way to give back. It makes you focus on and appreciate the things going on around you. You’ve got to do your part.”

This group of volunteers who come together to care for kids in their neighbouring schools appreciate the strength of community when people work together to make a difference. “We love getting together with this gang of people every week. It’s always nice to catch up and share different stories during your week or hear what’s been going on with the schools,” says Maryanne. “We really enjoy getting together and comparing stories every week. Having fun and having a few laughs while we make lunches.”

The greater community has also gotten involved, with one of the schools the group cares for hosting a Lenten fundraiser for funds for the group’s groceries. “You make a connection when you deliver the lunches and they start getting to know who you are, you make a connection with the school,” shares Pierre.

To learn more about starting your own community group, please visit here.

Feeding Hungry Kids in Killarney-Glengarry

Amid the hustle and bustle of Wednesday morning’s Tot Time at the Killarney-Glengarry Community Association (KGCA), volunteers Alie, Lisa, Margaret, and Alysha are gathered in the community hall’s kitchen making lunches for children in their neighbourhood. The windows between the kitchen and hall are open, and the sound of children playing fills the space.

“Most of us are moms from local schools who are helping out,” says Alie as she spreads wow butter across a slice of bread. “We support 4 schools in the area, the community association gives us the space and some donations, and COBS Marda Loop supports us too.” Since January of 2018, volunteers meet on Monday and Wednesday mornings to make lunches for 28 kids, set to make 4,200 lunches over this year.

The BB4CK Killarney Community group started taking shape last fall, when the KGCA brought together a group of people to discuss what kind of programming was needed for children in Killarney. One of the attendees was Closer to Home’s West Central Community Resource Centre (WCCRC), a current BB4CK partner. “We learned about the WCCRC’s programming, and heard about one of their programs called Brown Bagging,” says Carolyn Johnson, President of the KGCA. The Killarney community was interested in learning more and connected with BB4CK.

“When they proposed the BB4CK program, Chelsea and I said, “we can do that!” I told Chelsea I didn’t like grocery shopping and Chelsea said she didn’t like making lunches,” says Margaret, “so I said, “if you do the grocery shopping, I’ll do the lunches!” So that’s how it began.”

From left: Alysha, Margaret, Alie and Lisa

The group has about eight people who volunteer in various capacities, “most of us are from one school and that happened through word of mouth. One of the ladies who started the group came to the parent group and asked if anyone was interested in being involved,” says Alie. “Word kind of spread through the playground gossip line, ‘hey do you want to help out,’ and a lot of people came to us that way.” The group also advertised through their Killarney newsletter and people got involved after reading about the group feeding kids in their neighbourhood.

“I wanted something to do once my kids were in school that was for me,” explains Lisa. “This works well with my schedule. I drop the kids off at school and come and do something with a bunch of other moms. It’s great. My kids don’t go hungry so I don’t want other kids to go hungry.” Alie agrees that the group’s volunteering fits with ease, “I like that this works really well with my schedule and it’s an opportunity to help out. I think it is an important cause, feeding kids, and it’s such a simple thing. Lunch can do so much for a kid at school. It’s a way that I can really be helping in a mindful way.”

“I am a teacher myself,” says Alysha, “I’ve worked in schools over the years where kids were hungry and I saw what it does to their learning and how it affects them. No matter who you are, you shouldn’t be hungry, especially kids when they’re trying to learn and trying to do their best.”

The lunches the Killarney group makes contain a sandwich, cut up veggies, a piece of fruit, a snack and once a week a yogurt. Today’s bread and snacks are courtesy of COBS Bread, and Margaret is hard at work portioning and bagging scones and tarts. “I like that this is tangible, and hands on. That we make the lunches here and they go directly to kids,” she says as she seals half a lemon tart into a bag.

“You go to a school, see the kids and they’re running around and happy, you can’t imagine that any of them have these deep problems behind them because they’re kids and they’re running around playing,” shares Alie. “Then you see the empty [lunch delivery] box and you realize you solved that problem for them, it opens your eyes to the reality of those happy kids all running around, there are problems that you can’t simply see and there is opportunity to help.”

The group has done an amazing job of not only feeding kids, but inspiring the community around them to action too. “Lisa was at Superstore and asked if they would support us, and they asked for a letter. We did that and they gave us a gift card,” says Alie, who has reached out to a number of neighbourhood businesses for support and had a great response. “There is opportunity out there for local giving that goes unrealized if you don’t ask, and it helps supplement. People are really willing to give. COBS donates all their day end bread and that makes a big difference for us.”

“Talk to other groups, talk to your community association because they might already be involved in something and they might have funding available. I’ve connected with our school’s parent council association and one other school’s. If you can talk to them, you open up this whole world of opportunity. It might be volunteers, or a snack drive at the school dance, and ta-da, there you have a great fundraising opportunity, just through talking to different groups. There is lots of opportunity out there,” Alie explains.

“Community should be where people feel supported and I think that if people that support this program know they’re giving back locally that fosters a good feeling,” says Carolyn. “Leaning on each other for different reasons in the community is definitely what brings people together and makes them feel they belong.”

To support the Killarney community group in feeding kids, please visit here.

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