Last month, Jaime Stein (Social Media Manager for ING DIRECT Canada) invited me to join him and members of ING’s social media and community investment teams for dinner at one of the outreach programs they sponsor.
The Stop, a centre that helps bring healthy foods to local communities, hosts a monthly event called Food for Change – an intimate dining experience in support of The Stop’s innovative programs that fight hunger, build health and community, and inspire change.
On November 15th, I met Jaime, Rashel, Nadine and Marissa at The Stop’s Green Barn, located at Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie Street. Walking into the greenhouse for a tour, where we would later dine, my nose was immediately filled with the smell of fresh soil and clean air. The aroma was intoxicating, as I hadn’t smelled anything that refreshing since my last visit to British Columbia, and my eyesight began to glow from all of the wonderful oxygen in the room.
Listening to our host explain the food systems education programs, sheltered gardens, community farmer’s markets and bake oven events, I quickly realized why ING supported this Toronto initiative. On top of providing healthy food to local communities, The Stop’s mission is to encourage community members to build their own support networks, so people can connect to resources they may not otherwise find on their own. (Can you imagine sharing your backyard garden beds with your neighbours? The Stop can.)
While the theme for November’s event was “Sea-to-Sea,” Chef Chris Brown (Group of 7 Chefs) treated me to a vegetarian meal of my very own. Tomato soup, grilled eggplant salad, homemade ricotta tortellini, a tofu entrée and a dessert duo left me full and happy. The good company and hilarious conversation didn’t hurt either. But the biggest takeaway for me personally was seeing how passionate all of the volunteers were; a feeling I used to experience every time I walked a dog or raised money for the Victoria BC SPCA.
It might be time for me to finally admit that I haven’t been feeling very connected to Toronto lately. I love my job, my living situation is amazing, and I have been enjoying finally getting to know all of my online friends in-person. But I still don’t feel like a resident of this city. Since my night out with ING, I have been looking into a number of different volunteer opportunities here. From becoming a Big Sister, to helping promote financial literacy to youth, the options are seemingly endless.
Food for Thought
Until I find an organization in Toronto I can donate my time to, I would still like to help the Victoria BC SPCA. Since 2009, I have been a volunteer dog walker and fundraiser for the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. I have seen dogs lose limbs and pass away after being involved in car accidents where drivers fled the scenes; and I’ve also seen dogs and cats get adopted after being at the shelter for more than 500 days.
This organization will forever hold a piece of my heart and, if there’s one thing I can do (with the help of ING) this Christmas, this is it. For the month of December, if you open an account with $100+ and use my Orange Key (38888248S1), we’ll both get a $50 bonus. Since I cannot physically volunteer at the Victoria BC SPCA this year, I will donate all of my bonuses to them.
To Jaime, Rashel, Nadine, Chef Chris Brown and everyone at The Stop: Thank you again for the invitation, the delicious food, and the new connections. I am so very grateful that my night at The Stop showed me how I could feel more connected to this city.