A Vancouver Christmas Story: SilkBalance Served Plenty of PlatesPublished :
As we come closer to the holidays and Christmas, the time when we host and attend celebrations with family, friends and co-workers is upon us. Many companies will be hosting lunches, dinners or parties or staff events to mark the occasion.
This year at SilkBalance, we have decided to do something a little different. We wanted to give back to our local community in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where our Canadian team is located. We made the choice to not spend money on a dinner or team event. We instead wanted all the money that we normally would have spent to go toward helping feed those who are the most in need – the community members who are living below the poverty line and often struggle to find their next meal.
In Vancouver there is a foundation called “A Better Life Foundation” and it provides meals to those people living on the Vancouver DownTown EastSide, arguably the poorest neighborhood in Canada.
“A Better Life Foundation” has many programs that allow everyone to give back and we wanted to participate in an experience called “Plenty of Plates.” What this entails is raising a minimum of $5,000 and assembling a team of approximately 15-20 co-workers, family and friends, who will help fundraise and then, on your selected evening, cook and serve more than 100 meals and 50 to-go meals, to people who are a part of a daily meal program. The special venue is located at the historic Vancouver restaurant called “Save-On-Meats.”
Giving back in this unique and hands-on way to the DownTown EastSide community, people who live below the poverty line, and inviting them into a restaurant for a 3-course meal, an experience we all take for granted too often, gives them the dignity and hope they deserve so they can focus on their recovery instead of where the meal will come from that evening. It is all a part of making efforts that support and give back.
We worked with our friends and a few local businesses to put our evening together and to raise money. We were humbled by the donations that came pouring in and in less than two weeks we raised more than $7,500. It was a reminder of how giving people are. $30 will feed someone for a week; $125 will feed someone for a month, and the money we raised surpassed our goal and will provide more than 1,750 meals!
On Monday December 9th at 5 p.m. our group arrived at Save-On-Meats. All generations were
there to volunteer with the youngest being only 6 years old.
We spent the first 30 minutes with the foundation’s director learning about the history of the DTES and about how it became one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada. We heard about the different types of people who live there and about some of the mental and addiction-related struggles that they have and who this program that they operate really makes a difference for.
We were then divided into two groups. One group would be working “front of house” which means that they would be setting up all the tables, greeting and seating our guests and then serving them the 3-course meal.
The second group would be the cooks working in the kitchen cooking all the courses from scratch. The menu was a “Fresh Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup” for the first course, the second course was “Mama’s Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables” and for dessert “ Blondies with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce.”
We all quickly got to work, and over the course of 90 minutes, onions, garlic and mushrooms were chopped and the team simmered all the ingredients in a large pot that held enough soup for 150 servings. Potatoes were roasted and put in the commercial masher. Carrots were peeled and sliced and the main course – the star of the menu – the meatloaf was prepared with love and a lot of amazing spices. The team assigned to make the Blondies got to work chopping cashews and making this alternative version of the “Brownie.”
The front of house not only set each place, prepared drinks but also placed a brand new pair of socks at each of the settings, every one of the guests went home with a new pair.
Over the course of 4 hours, more than 100 people came in and we not only served them a fresh and quality meal in a restaurant, but most importantly we gave them hope and a smile.
Here are a few comments from some of the volunteers from the night:
“Human connection is a powerful thing! Thank you @abetterlifevan and your #plentyofplates program for this humbling and transformative evening earlier this week. Bringing people together from all walks of life, to underline the value of working together, helping feed the impoverished in Van’s DTES, and striving to blend societal lines to promote compassion, humanity and community is simply beautiful. The cooking, serving and working with other volunteers was super fun, but the smiles, words of appreciation and conversations shared with local patrons was so heartwarming. It was a magical experience.“
“Tonight was mind blowing. We made and served a 3-course dinner for about 100 people on the DTES.
We live a block away and recognized some of our neighbours. But the overwhelming gratitude for being served a hot meal was something that forever changed me and my kids. I can’t really describe watching them have conversations with our guests and running to get them a drink or dessert, proud and honored to have made a meal and to be able to make someone happy.
Our guests seemed to love interacting and chatting with the kids. I was the ‘bartender’ serving endless sodas and juice, (mostly due to being a liability in any kitchen I attempt to cook in) and had some amazing conversations with those on their own at the bar.
On our short walk home one of my kids said to me ‘Tonight I realized that at times when I’ve felt uncomfortable walking around down here that I don’t need to feel that way again. I got to talk to everyone tonight Mom.’
Thank you to all our friends and family who donated to A Better Life Vancouver. We raised a lot of money to donate and ensure food security through this Foundation continues and helps more who need to eat.
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