Cambridge Community Spotlight: Cambridge Self Help Food Bank

Happy to report that we have had some great traffic from our Cambridge Community Spotlight in our last two posts. This time I sat down with Pat Singleton of the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank. I have been working with Pat for the last 7-8 years helping when they need assistance with food sorting or their annual toy sort to make sure kids get something under the tree, no matter their circumstance.

Mike: Let's start with the basics, what is it the food bank does?
Pat: At the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank we provide 3 main food programs.
  1. Emergency Food Assistance:  Like most Food Banks, we offer a 3 – 5 day allocation of food.  There is a form that is filled out the first time you are here, after that the information is on our computer program and participants check in their name and address are checked.
  2. Food Co-operative:  This specific food distribution program is quite unlike others offered at Food Banks. There are currently 600 families that are part of the Food Co-operative.  Those accessing this program receive two food pickups per month and contribute $9 per month and a minimum of 4 hours of work per month. A number of those who access the Food Co-operative Program contribute well in excess of 12 – 15 hours per week.
  3. Organizations we give food to:  We currently provide food to approximately 26 organizations in the Cambridge & North Dumfries community. This includes organizations such as the Trinity Community Table (Soup Kitchen), Shelters, Neighbourhood Centres and Food Bank off sites.

Mike: How is the Self Help Food Bank different than other food banks?
Pat: We are very proud of the uniqueness of our Food Bank.  First of all we are more than a food bank. Our name says it with the "Self Help" part. By asking people to make a minimum financial contribution and volunteer 4 hours each month we are encouraging them to be a member of a co-op with the ability to govern and make decisions based on the needs of the whole community.  Participants are also given the opportunity to choose their food based on their family size.  The norm for most Food Banks is that you are given a box of pre-selected food.  Again by choosing their own food we are giving them the satisfaction of selection plus the hours of volunteering lead them to develop new skills. We also offer a number of programs that lead to self-reliance.  For example we partner with the YWCA program, Small Steps to Success a pre-employment program for women. Other unique programs at our Food Bank are the Grandparents support group, Back-pack program where over 1,000 pack backs are distributed in Sept. and the Spiritual Care Program.    The Spiritual Care Program is in the business of helping participants find hope in a sometimes hopeless situation.

Mike: I have been through your location a few times, there are lots of doors with program names. Tell me what else you do for the community?
Pat: Programs provided by outside agencies at our Food Bank include Wholistic Child & Youth Services, Small Steps to Success (a Program of the YWCA), Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge & North Dumfries, Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, ACCKWA & Sanguen Health Centre.  All of these partnerships help our participants to readily access community supports.
The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is identified as a safe, compassionate and responsive community.   It is the hub of their place of learning, receiving and sharing both the highs and lows of their lives.  
Mike: How can I support the Food Bank?
Pat: You can support the Food Bank in a number of ways:
  • By becoming a donor either in food donations or a financial donation.  A financial donation allows us to purchase much needed food staples
  • You could organize a food drive at your place of employment, school, church, and neighbourhood.  Bins, posters etc. are all available to help you in your food drive. 
  • Volunteer to assist with a special event.  Whether it be for “Stuff a Bus” at Christmas or a Bar-B-Q we always need an extra pair of hands. 
  • Volunteer for sorting food after a food drive.  
  • Become an ambassador for the Food Bank.  We need positive people to promote the work we are doing.   
  • Check out our Web site for items on our Wish List.  Sometimes people find they just might have access to something we dearly need.  
  • Talk to your children about why we need food banks
Mike: What is on the radar for 2015?
Pat: This year the Food Bank is commemorating 30 years of service to the residents of Cambridge and North Dumfries.  It is an opportunity for the Food Bank to thank our many donors and to inform the community how we have grown over those 30 years.  Our three events for this anniversary will be an opportunity to share about our work with the community.  These events are:  Pat in the Hat, a thirty hour fun event hosted to talk about the Food Bank and act as a fund raiser. This was held at Cambridge City Hall on March 6-7th. (Dr. Seuss would have been proud) 
The second event for our anniversary is an Art Auction on May 21st.  Entitled, Behind Open Doors it is once again a fund raiser but also an opportunity to reflect on the fact that we do not know what is behind closed doors for them.  Poverty is very pervasive.  This evening is a free event with light refreshments please join us the 21st of May at 5:30 at the Honda Dealership on Hespeler Road. 
The third event is a dinner at the Holiday Inn, Cambridge on October 2nd.  This is an opportunity for the Food Bank to thank donors by profiling the three decades.
There is a spring Food Drive on currently and there will be a Thanksgiving Food Drive this fall.  Certainly Christmas is a very busy time for the Food Bank.  We assist well over 1,000 families with Christmas, coordinating our efforts with Salvation Army and the Firefighters.  
Hear what it is the CSHFB does direct from a few people that use it.

Please check out their web site at or call the office at 519-622-6550 for further information or to donate/volunteer.

Cambridge Community Spotlight: United Way of Cambridge and North Dumfries

Continuing with our Cambridge Community Spotlight today we shine the light on United Way of Cambridge and North Dumfries. United Way is a long standing community organization with roots going back as far as 1917. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Amanda Melnick, Director of Resource Development, to dig deeper into what United Way is and just how it impacts the community of Cambridge and North Dumfries.

Me: I think it's safe to say everyone has heard of the United Way. I would also wager many couldn't easily say what it is you do. So what is it you do? 
Amanda: To put it simply, we are a community organization. There are a couple of sides to our work and to be honest we've changed what we do over the past 10 years and I think that’s where a bit of the confusion comes in. We are a lot more than just fundraising these days.  A big part of what we do is being a vehicle for people to make a difference in ways that work for them, whether that be through giving money, time or other resources. We work with hundreds of volunteers to raise over $2 million every year to put back into programs and services that directly impact over 51,000 people of all ages right here in our community. 
Me: WOW, that is a lot of people you directly impact. Does United Way do this all on their own?
Amanda: We work with both agencies and local businesses of all sizes to make a difference in our community. We recognize that this work can’t be done alone and so we work as sort of a hub to make change possible. What I mean by ‘hub’ is that we work with a variety of different groups, our partner agencies, local businesses of all sizes, volunteers, our volunteer centre members, community members, etc. and help to connect one another to make an impact. We also focus on 4 key areas: Kids, Poverty, Community and Volunteerism. By focusing our efforts this way we get a holistic approach to community building. This is an important approach since often when you find yourself in a tough situation more than one service is needed to help you and your family get to where you need to be. 
Me: With that kind or reach you must touch people that may not even know it. How does the United Way impact me and my family? 
Amanda: With 1 in 3 residents of Cambridge & North Dumfries being impacted by a United Way supported service you can bet that you know someone who has been given an opportunity made possible by United Way. We also operate the community’s volunteer centre and are making volunteer matches for people every day.We all want to live in a healthy and vibrant community and United Way’s approach to community building is designed to accomplish just that with our focus areas and strong relationships across the community. 
Me: I believe in volunteering. It is something important to me and my family. Not everyone has the time to do it. How can people support the United Way? 
Amanda: There are a number of ways that you can support United Way:
  • If your workplace runs a United Way campaign you can get involved in organizing that or just take part in the activities your co-workers have planned.
  • If your organization doesn't run a campaign you could always look at starting one. Running a campaign is a great way to bring a workplace closer together as you work to give back to the community.
  • You can contribute a financial donation online, over the phone or in person at our office.
  • You can volunteer in our community. United Way runs the Cambridge & North Dumfries volunteer centre and we have a wide variety of positions just waiting to be filled. If your team at work is looking for a new team building activity we also plan group volunteering.
  • One of the most helpful things that someone can do to support United Way is to share the stories that are happening in the community because of the work of United Way and our partner agencies. Education and awareness are key to creating a strong community.
Me: We are just heading into the spring, a time when people are getting more active in the community. What does United Way have on the radar for 2015 that we can watch out for? 
Amanda: 2015 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for us. We are going to be focusing on getting more stories out to the community about the great things that are happening right under our noses. We are carrying our Community Superhero theme through to this year and plan on having some more fun with that.We are already setting up our next round of Days of Caring where a company sends out a team for a group volunteering opportunity. That’s one trend we’re seeing with employee engagement here locally, an expanded interest in these sorts of opportunities, which we are more than happy to help set up. It’s always fantastic to get an opportunity to share the good work of our partners.
I really enjoyed getting to know more about UW and seeing Amanda's passion for the community. If you are looking for inspiration to do something, find a volunteer or someone dedicated to working in the community and ask them why they do it. You will be inspired for sure. Have a watch of the video and then give something. Time. Money. Hope.

United Way of Cambridge and North Dumfries Facebook Page


The Holdover Clause; Does It Matter To The Buyer?

There was a recent CBC news story about a gentlemen who bought a house and was sued by his former agent for commissions "owed". The challenge here is that when you are selling your home a hold over clause usually negates when you sign a new listing agreement with an agent. When purchasing and signing a Buyers Representation Agreement (BRA) the holdover clause is not replaced with a new contract.

The concern here shouldn't be the holdover clause, it should be the BRA in the first place. Why should an agent get the exclusivity to my purchasing if they are not doing their job. In most cases, like the one in the CBC story, if the agent is enforcing a BRA holdover, it's likely they were not living up to the expectations of the client. Simply put, they didn't do the job they were contracted to do. I would think that, as a professional, I should work at earning my clients trust and respect to keep them loyal to me, not be a smooth talking salesman and sign them to a contract locking them up for upwards of 6 months.

The worst part of this story, IMHO, is that the governing body (RECO) says the buyer is at fault. This is what happens when you have self policed industries working under what could be considered a monopoly.

What are your thoughts? How would you feel if someone didn't do their job and you got told you had to pay $12,800 to them because they made you sign a bunch of papers as a "trusted professional"?