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Reflections of a placement student

By: Kylee LeClair
Two years ago, I worked with the Agapè Centre for my grade 12 co-operative education, and was exposed to how hunger truly affects our community. It opened my eyes to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was at a loss for what to do after high school, when my teacher suggested looking into becoming a social service worker. A spark arose in me and I was able to make sense of how I could apply my passion for helping others to my life.

I chose to do my college field placement this fall again with the Agapè Centre because it was where it all started for me. I want to share that experience, because I think it will help people to see another side of the agency.

The clientele they deal with is primarily those who I truly feel need the help. Poverty is a huge social issue and has impacted a lot of lives in Cornwall. The center provides basic needs like food and clothing to the community, which are much needed. Poverty and hunger can be a struggle in a person’s life, and they may feel ashamed of this. The centre provides them with a friendly support, where they can come and feel as though life is not so bad.

I spent 3 days a week for 4 months at the Agapè Centre, and I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of different clients and hear their stories.

The most significant moment that has stuck with me happened one day while working in the soup kitchen. I had grabbed the client’s meal ticket and gave her a friendly hello. She responded by saying “thank you.” As I proceeded to ask her why, she explained to me the importance of the soup kitchen in her life. She said: “Without this place, I would not be able to eat a full meal a day. The meals that Jayne (the head cook) prepares for us never fail me. They are always nutritious and very filling. I would starve without this kitchen, and for that, I thank you.” This moment will forever be with me. It really gave me a sense of joy that we were able to provide this woman with such happiness over a plate of food.

I’ve also had the chance to work in all departments of the centre – the soup kitchen, food bank, client services, thrift store, sorting, etc – and have learned how it functions together. Each different area is essential for the whole to flow well.

For example, did you know the money the thrift shop makes is fed into the soup kitchen and the food bank? If it weren’t for the community’s support by shopping in the store, there would be a lack of funding for the other services.

Working in the back sorting area allowed me to see the process of how they decide what stuff is in good shape for the store and what is not. The work almost seems endless, but the ladies in the back are very welcoming, and do an excellent job at working through the donations and getting the store stocked.

I really liked working in the reception desk and being the front line person. Everyone comes there – clients, volunteers, staff, donors – and I got to meet so many people. I liked talking with donors about why they give to the centre. I got to see a different side.

I was involved with the daily services, but I also got to take on some interesting projects of my own. I was given the opportunity to write a client survey for the food bank with my supervisor. We wanted to know how we can best serve the clients, so we brainstormed what questions needed to be asked. I created the survey and met with clients as they came in for their food bank appointments. Next semester I will get to analyze the results and recommend changes. It’s something the clients appreciated because sometimes they don’t feel like their voices are being heard, and this was an opportunity for them to give input. It was empowering.

I also worked at creating a mini cookbook that we hope will be provided in the food bank with each order, if the demand is present. It will have recipes for the basic items clients get in the food bank, the food guide, and a chart of the best seasons to buy fruits and vegetables. This booklet could be an asset to the clients because it contains the basic information about easy ways to eat healthy and cook on a small budget.

During my time at Agapè I have had endless encounters with the clients about the appreciation they have for the centre. There has not been a day where I have not heard “thank you, I really appreciate the help.” For this reason, I will always give my support to the Agapè Centre.

I could not be happier with my choice for field placement. It has assured me that this is the right area to be seeking a career in. I was losing my spark at the start of my second year, but being back in the place that opened my eyes to my passion of helping others reignited the spark.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to help the community. I have developed a drive to make a positive impact in the client’s lives, and I gained the skills necessary. I sincerely love what I am doing.

I look forward to continuing with the Agapè Centre for my second semester, and I’m excited about the new learning experiences I will encounter.

Kylee kitchenKyleedesk

 

 

Cornwall’s Agapè Centre Named A Good Food Organization

Cornwall’s Agapè Centre has joined 36 other organizations from across Canada to work for a healthy and fair food system, and in doing so has been named a Good Food Organization.

“We are very excited to have been selected as a Good Food Organization,” says Alyssa Blais, Executive Director of the Agapè Centre. “We have been working hard to create a culture at Agapè which places a premium on delivering healthy nutritious meals to our clients.”

Good Food Organizations are making a commitment to offering respectful, responsive, and impactful food programs in their communities as a way of decreasing hunger, building better physical and mental health, and reducing social isolation. The program has been developed by Community Food Centres Canada.

“We launched this initiative to provide support and inspiration to organizations across the country, be they health centres, food banks, or community organizations, that are doing important grassroots food work,” says Kathryn Scharf, VP National Programs for Community Food Centres Canada. “We want to amplify these voices and program outcomes to show what effects an investment in healthy food can have.”

Community Food Centres Canada is a national organization with the mandate to work with partners to develop welcoming spaces where people come together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. People learn cooking skills and get their hands dirty in the garden –  in ways that expand their taste buds and help them make healthier food choices.

Good Food Organizations will gain access to centralized resources, customized training as well as a granting stream.

The Agapè Centre has undertaken a number of initiatives to support the concept of “good food”.  The Centre has created and maintains its own fresh garden, and it regularly receives donations of fresh spinach and other leafy vegetables from Smart Greens in Cornwall. It has been encouraging donations of healthy food items and wherever possible has been using fresh, organic ingredients in meal preparation.

“We’ve received over 10,000 pounds of vegetables from local farmers and gardeners this summer,” said Ms. Blais. “Marlin Orchards alone has donated thousands of pounds of apples.”

Agapè Centre staff have also been working hard to educate the community about the importance of healthy eating.

“Today, there is a lot more awareness about the benefits of making healthy food choices,” says Ms. Blais. “Good food leads to good health which creates more opportunity for personal growth.”

Agapè Centre receives $820 from Ontario REALTORS Care Foundation

Ontario REALTORS Care Foundation

The Agapè Centre has received a wonderful donation of $820 to purchase food from the Ontario REALTORS Care Foundation through an endorsement from the Cornwall and District Real Estate Board. Alyssa Blais, executive director of the Agapè Centre states, “This donation will go towards purchasing the eggs, milk and cereal that is much needed in our food bank. I am thankful for the support and appreciate that the Cornwall and District Real Estate Board thought of the Agapè Centre.”
Joy Morin, client services manager of the Agapè Centre comments, “This gift will provide a boost in the food bank. We thank the Board for their support.”

Giving Tuesday

It’s Giving Tuesday – a global day of giving – and we’re celebrating with our many regular volunteers, as well as a few special guests today.

The Agapè Centre relies on the community to give their time, food, clothing, and funds. Without this support, we would not be able to continue to serve the many families and individuals in need.

Today we are reminded of the many, many, people in our community who give.

Councilor Carilyne Hebert is volunteering this afternoon in the food bank, helping to give out packages of 3 to 5 days’ worth of groceries to people in need. With her is an Agapè vet, Remi Gillet, who volunteers every Tuesday.

In the kitchen, a team of volunteers from Paroisse Sainte-Thérèse-de-Lisieux helped to prepare and serve a hot lunch of beef stew, soup and dessert to about 100 people. Pictured are Rita Besner, Lise Leblanc and Diane Burelle from Sainte-Thérèse-de-Lisieux, as well as weekly soup kitchen volunteers Maurice, Cecile and Kaitlyn.

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Help us deliver baskets of hope and joy!

For more than 40 years, the Agapè Centre has helped to provide families and individuals with baskets of hope and joy during the holiday season.

This year, approximately 1300 baskets will be handed out on Thursday December 18th by the Children’s Christmas Fund – which is comprised of various service groups, including the Agapè Centre and the Salvation Army of Cornwall.

Needless to say, it is a daunting task.

The Agapè Centre would like to invite you, your family and co-workers to volunteer at the Christmas Basket event. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help provide the less fortunate of our neighborhoods with a gift of good will and for children to participate in an event that is all about giving and community.

Volunteers can choose to come for either the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening. Meals and coffee will be provided.

If interested, please contact Kendra, our volunteer coordinator at volunteercoordinator@agapecentre.ca or 613-938-9297 ext. 21.

Celebrating with our Volunteers at the annual Christmas Party

It’s the most wonderful time of year, and once again we had the pleasure of celebrating the holidays with our most wonderful volunteers.

The centre’s staff prepared and served up a delicious traditional Christmas meal to the many generous and dedicated volunteers. They give so much of themselves in service to the centre, that it’s nice to be able to give something back and have some fun together.

With over 100 active volunteers, there’s certainly a lot to celebrate!

The Agapè Centre has volunteers in so many different capacities, and at this, our busiest time of year, we are especially grateful for all that they do:

  • Soup kitchen volunteers help feed a hot and nutritious more than 100 people in the community daily.
  • Food bank volunteers distribute food to about 30 families of various sizes every weekday.
  • Sorting centre volunteers help keep the store stocked with great items
  • Thrift store volunteers keep our customers coming back and supporting us. Sales have been AMAZING! And that is largely in part because of our incredible volunteers in both the sorting centre and thrift store
  • Food sorting volunteers organize the thousands of donated food items that come in to the centre, so we can get that food to people in need.
  • Christmas basket registration volunteers are working to register close to 1,300 families for their Christmas basket.
  • Placement students help in all of the areas of the centre, and take part in specialized projects – like creating, conducting, and analyzing a client food bank survey.
  • Board Members are volunteers too! And they help to guide the direction of the organization.
  • Building Campaign team volunteers are out in the community working to raise the much needed funds to repair the building so we can continue to feed people.

Thank you to all those who came out on November 26 to celebrate with us. And to all those who were unable to attend – we missed you!

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The volunteers enjoying the delightful feast and each other’s company

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Volunteers Anne Alguire and Sheila Fraser have some fun with the photo booth

Visit our Facebook page to check out more of the photo booth fun we had with our incredible volunteers:

Canada World Youth goes Trick-or-Eating

Thank you to the Canada World Youth (CWY) group that collected five shopping carts full of non-perishables for the food bank on Halloween.

The group of 17 young adults from across Canada and Vietnam spent September and October in Vietnam hosting educational workshops and events.  Now they’re in Cornwall spending the next 2 months volunteering with various community agencies, including the Agape Centre.

On Friday October 31st, instead of just trick-or-treating for the Canadian Halloween experience, the group donned their best costumes and went door-to-door  in the Riverdale neighbourhood, collecting nutritious food for the hungry of our community.

It’s easy to be a Hero

The Agapè Centre is thrilled to announce the launch of a new program that invites community groups to help feed those in need by sponsoring, preparing and serving a meal in the soup kitchen: “Hunger Heroes”.

Every day, Agapè serves a hearty and nutritious lunch to 100 or more people. For many, it’s their only hot meal of the day.

Four teams have already jumped on board to help eradicate hunger in our city, one meal at a time.

“It’s so good to see new faces volunteering in our kitchen. We wouldn’t be able to provide the services we do without the generosity of people in our community,” said Kendra Smith, the program’s coordinator. “The Hunger Heroes initiative is just one more way that people can give, but also have a meaningful experience.”

October’s ‘Hunger Heroes’ were Councillor-elects Carilyne Hebert, Justin Towndale, and David Murphy, and the Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS).

Chief Dan Parkinson and his team of CCPS servers were happy to show another side of the badge: caring and compassion.

“There can be almost no greater cause than to satisfy the most basic human physiological need: hunger,” said Parkinson. “Food security has to be a priority for any caring community,” he added.

The complex issues of poverty and hunger can often seem overwhelming, but the Agape Centre hopes the Hunger Heroes program can show just how easy it is for anyone to help.

“Unfortunately, Cornwall has a high level of poverty, with a quarter of the population living below the poverty line. These are working people, people who have lost their jobs, those looking for work, seniors, those who depend on ODSP, and many with metal health struggles. When their very limited income just doesn’t cut it, the Agape Center is there for them,” said Carilyne Hebert.

Justin Towndale decided to take part in the program because he believes everyone in the community should have access to basic necessities. “I hope to raise awareness,” he said. “Most of the time, those who need assistance are invisible.”

Councilor David Murphy brought along two Cornwall Colts players to share the eye-opening experience.

“Participating in the Hunger Heroes Program allowed me an opportunity the get an up close and personal look at the clients that benefit from the food served,” he said. “It was my privilege to have taken part in such a program.”

Here’s how it works:
Teams arrive in the soup kitchen for 9 a.m. and spend the morning preparing lunch, which consists of a home-made soup, a main meal, coffee or tea and dessert. Then from noon to 1:30p.m., the volunteers serve the free meal they sponsored (which typically totals $150).

It requires a minimum time commitment, and the benefits largely outweigh any costs. ‘Hunger Heroes’ will see the tangible results of their day and will experiencing what something as simple as a hot meal means to someone who really needs it. Groups will not soon forget this enriching, empowering, and fun team-building activity.

The Agapè Centre invites community businesses, organizations, schools, families, churches, and other groups to consider taking part in this community challenge. For more information contact the program coordinator by phone at 613-938-9297 ext. 21, or by email at volunteercoordinator@agapecentre.ca

 

A big thank you goes out to the first four Hunger Heroes, for responding so quickly with such care and enthusiasm.

2014_Oc16_CarilyneHebert_2Carilyne Hebert helps Agape Centre cook, Jayne Robins, prepare lunch.

 

2014_Oct 21_DavidMurphy1David Murphy and Cornwall Colts players proudly show off the fresh salad they made.

2014_Oct 20_JustinTowndale_1Hunger Hero Justin Towndale serves up lunch with Agape Centre volunteers.

2014_Oct 23_CCPSHunger Heroes from the Cornwall Community Police Service.

BDO food drive boasts a big haul

As part of their National Drive Away Hunger Campaign, Cornwall’s BDO office hosted a food drive for the Agape Centre at Baxtrom’s Your Independent Grocer On Saturday, October 11.

They raised an impressive $1,400 in cash, along with 975 lbs of potatoes and 724 lbs of dry goods. That’s a total of 1,700 lbs of food!

The company’s national goal was to raise 500,000 lbs of food.

We are very grateful to Krystle Mitrow and the BDO Cornwall team for helping us feed community members in need. The potatoes have already been happily received by many families and individuals, and the non-perishable food was added to the food bank shelves.

If you or your organization is interested in hosting a food drive, please take a look at our resources online, or contact Joy Morin at 613-938-9297 ext. 28.

AGAPE FRUIT FOREST CONTINUES TO GROW

The funding from Tree Canada finally took root, as volunteers and staff planted 40 more trees on Thursday, October 30.  The initiative is supported by a grant from the Edible Trees program, which provides grants of up to $4,000 to municipalities, schools, and community gardens to purchase, plant, and maintain fruit and nut trees.

“The trees planted will become valuable sources of healthy food for these communities,” said Michael Rosen, Tree Canada President.

The Agapè Centre added more variety to their young fruit forest with two more kinds of apples and plums on the property of Fountaingate Christian Assembly, and they’re not stopping there. They’ll be planting over 100 more fruit trees in the spring, believing that good food has the power to build healthy communities.

A team of six volunteers from Canada World Youth, a group of 17 young adults from across Vietnam and Canada who are spending two months volunteering in Cornwall, joined two Agapè Centre staff members to help with the planting process.

Ha Luong, a 21 year-old Vietnamese youth in Canada with the exchange program, has been involved with similar projects in his home country, and sees the importance of an organization like a food bank or soup kitchen growing their own food.

“With other volunteers, we had great time there digging and planting several kinds of trees,” he said. “But besides fun, it is not only about some more trees appearing in this area, but also about raising public awareness about the food supply, and later get involved in Agape’s activities to help local residents.”

The low-maintenance trees, grown specifically to thrive pesticide-free in the Canadian climate, will bear fruit within the next three to five years, and will provide fresh, local and organically grown food for those in our community who are living on low incomes and rely on the Agapè Centre.

“We greatly appreciate the support from Tree Canada and the young people who volunteered in the garden,” said Alyssa Blais, executive director for the Agapè Centre. “Without their help, we would not be able to have planted all these trees.”

Last fall, the charity that feeds over 200 people a day planted 100 dwarf apple and pear trees, as well as 100 seedless grape vines, with the generous donation from Medical Arts Pharmacy.

 

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Look at how much the trees planted last fall have grown!

Look at how much the trees planted last fall have grown!