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The Canadian Food Experience- Regional Hero
This months Canadian Food Experience post is supposed to highlight a regional food hero, but to be honest with you I just can’t stand the term hero. The term hero should be reserved for people who pull kids from burning buildings, donate their organs to save lives, or smack people who install the toilet roll backwards. ( Really? The underhand feed? C’mon now.)
I decided that since most of the accolades in any food community are heavily directed at chefs, restauranteurs, and product suppliers, I would focus on those un-sung heroes of any good food community…. the volunteers.
And hey, since I’m going to bend the rules a little bit here anyways, why not bust them into smithereens and highlight not 1, but 3 superstar Edmonton volunteers?
Anyone who knows these 3 women know they would surely bristle at the suggestion of calling themselves heroes, or frankly toot their own horns in any way. Therefore, it’s up to us to recognize their selfless acts and take a moment to say thanks for all they do.
My first unsung hero is Joveena Holmes.
Joveena is an active supporter of all things local, and has been a big contributor to Food Security Alberta, which works to ensure a safe, accessible supply of food for Albertans. In addition to that, Joveena has helped organize a national food conference, volunteered for the Slow Food National Conference here in Edmonton last May, and also helps out at the enormously successful What the Truck events.
As you can see, Joveena has had her hands in most everything that matters in the Edmonton food scene, and though she has a long list of causes she’s volunteered for, I know her best from volunteering together at the annual Eat Alberta conferences.
Eat Alberta is a one day conference held every March, and combines a whole day of hands-on and demonstration workshops complete with meals and informational seminars. The entire event is volunteer driven, from the organization to the presenters. What’s truly fantastic about Eat Alberta is that the conference is all about sharing knowledge and skills for the betterment of the food community as a whole. It’s been a highlight for me the last 2 years I’ve been involved.
Talking about Eat Alberta is a great segue to introduce my 2rd unsung hero, Suzanne Dennis.
Sue’s volunteer resume reads as long as War and Peace, but thankfully its more interesting. Sue has been on the Organizing Committee for Eat Alberta for the last 3 years, and the past 2 years she has served as volunteer coordinator, which is no small job. Having been one of the volunteers she has had to coordinate the last 2 years, I gained a substantial amount of respect for Sue and all the hard work she does to make Eat Alberta such a success.
Sue is what I would call a serial volunteer, as she rarely says no to a plea for help. Some of the organizations that have been benefactors of Sue’s generosity have been Slow Food Canada and Slow Food Edmonton, Gold Forest Grains, Mojojo Pickles, Molly’s Eats Food Truck, Operation Fruit Rescue, and the list goes on and on and on.
It’s really quite shocking that one person can accomplish so much with their free time, whereas most of us (me) can’t even get a simple blog post done on time (this one is 4 days late).
My third unsung hero, Cynthia Strawson.
Cynthia is always up for a food related get-together of any kind, and recently completed a term as President of Slow Food Edmonton. There are a lot of great reasons to applaud Cynthia, but I want to focus on one specific initiative that she began in December of 2012.
Cynthia was a Nutrition MSc student at the University of Alberta at the time, and was spending a lot of time volunteering at the LaSalle shelter for Women conducting hands-on cooking classes with other volunteers from Slow Food Edmonton for the women at the shelter . The grand finale of the classes was to be cooking an entire turkey dinner.
Since a lot of these women left their destructive home situations behind with little more than the clothes on their backs and their children, Cynthia decided that it would be a great idea to be able to present each of these women with a care package of all the kitchen essentials they would need to continue preparing healthy, home cooked meals at home when they left the shelter.
She set out to raise the $2500 she figured it would take to get everything on the list for the 9 women, and called it the “9 of Everything” project. Well the story caught the imagination of kind hearted people nation-wide, and within a few days she had collected well over the $2500 she was looking for. Cynthia enlisted the help of a few friends to tackle the shopping trip, subsequent packaging, and delivery of the care packages.
What I love about this whole story is that there are no ulterior motives here. It’s just a story of a thoughtful, kind woman focusing the generosity of Canadians and channeling the proceeds directly to a very worthy end goal. This is just one of the reasons I’m very proud to call Cynthia my friend.
Read Cynthias blog post on the project here.
Having the pleasure of getting to know these 3 amazing women has really opened my eyes to how much value one good-hearted and generous person can add to their community. Though they don’t seek any accolades or receive any financial benefit for the great work they do, they are every bit as important to this food community as any chef or producer.
These three women truly epitomize what I consider to be heroes.
Santas Anonymous Giveaway- The Sequel
Our Santa’s Anonymous contest was such a success last year, Robyn and I figured we’d give it another go this year.
Last year we just asked you to send us an email letting us know that you donated a toy, and that got you entered to win a fabulous gift of homemade goodies. (retail value approx.* $1,000,000!) The contest generated about 25 toys donated, including a generous donation from our friend Shana all the way from New York. Hopefully we will beat that this year.
*VERY approximate. As in if you read that number with a mirror you’d be pretty close.
This year, just head to your nearest Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, or shopping mall to drop off a new, unwrapped toy, and then send us picture – either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com), or Tweet it to us (@baconhound and @joyfulfollies ) – of you dropping off your donation to be entered in our giveaway*! You can follow S.A. on twitter to get updates on what they are in need of most. (@santasanonymous)
You have until the end of the day on Friday, December 16 to enter.
We will enter your name into the draw (1 for every donation) to receive a treasure trove of the homemade goodness we are making this year – consisting of all the goodies Robyn is detailing this week on her blog, as well as my maple-bacon Chex mix and Bailey’s – and we will randomly select a winner on Saturday, December 17.
*if you are out of town, and are inspired to help, feel free to send a cheque and we will gladly do the legwork for you!
A special thanks to Saylish, Mike, and Nathan at the Next Act Pub for getting the ball rolling this year. A while back you may remember that Robyn’s burger submission was selected to run as a special Cameo burger for a week at the pub. As part of the deal, she received $1 from each sold that week in the form of a gift card usable at the pub. The grand total sold was 137. She recently contacted Saylish, who is one of the owners, and asked if instead of paying out gc’s to her, could they donate that dollar amount to Santa’s Anonymous?
Of course, being good community minded folks they enthusiastically agreed.
So get shopping people, and let’s make sure no kids in Edmonton wake up Christmas morning to disappointment!