Community Projects

A Day at an Inner City School

Just last week, my wife and I did a catering event for an inner city school in the downtown core. What I saw from the outside of the school is what most other people would also see – a half decent looking school located in a wealthy neighborhood. Ironically, the inside is everything opposite of what you would perceive it to be. As if, it was a scene from a Hollywood movie. The school was dark, run down, beaten lockers, worn down desks with barely decent looking washrooms. However, this public school was special because as a whole, the students performed academically well and were ranked among the highest in all public schools. Indeed that was an achievement for any teacher or parent to be proud.

We were asked to conduct a presentation on Asian cooking in addition to a hands-on demonstration for 75 kids. The kitchen was spacious and far larger than expected, but what was different than your home or restaurant kitchen were laundry machine washers and dryers. Why I had asked? These kids came from various backgrounds with several coming from a family that was barely making ends meet. Kids here, are taught how to wash clothes, dry them, how to turn on a dishwasher, how to wash dishes by hand. It was the basics that they would carry on throughout their life. We were taken back for a moment just realizing how lucky we were to live in a warm shelter, to eat almost anything we like and to have extra money for leisure activities and entertainment.

As my wife and I were giving the demonstration, one kid raises his hand to call for the teacher. “Excuse me, Mrs. D., may I have a banana?” I was told by the teacher he was one bright student but also one of the most underprivileged kids in the class. Most times there was not enough food at home to feed everyone in the family. Another kid raises his hand to ask for a yogurt while another drinks water. You can see it in their eyes, sadness but also joy. They were joyful because they enjoyed outsiders like us coming in and spending a day with them teaching them something new. We had pre-planned this event in advance and prepared chopsticks for each kid to bring home. You had to be there just to see the smiles on their face. It was one of the most satisfying experiences we both had. We had kids coming up to us and continuously and so politely thanking us for coming in. For us, it wasn’t the money that we received that made the day; it was the joy we brought to these kids. As we grow our business, we hope to participate in more events like this.

Recent Events Raising Awareness

Between March 22nd to March 29, 2008, Cara (i.e. Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Montana’s, Milestones and Kelsey’s) teamed up with UNICEF to launch the Tap Project, a water program to provide clean water to children of third world countries around the world. Customers who normally would receive tap water for free were encouraged to donate $1. According to UNICEF, each $1 of water purchased provided clean water for 40 children for 1 day or 1 child for 40 days.

Recently, Casey’s Restaurants launched the first chain-wide fundraising campaign, Feed the Soul. Partnering with the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) and Association Québécoise des Banques Alimentaires et des Moissons (AQBAM), Casey’s donated $1 for every item sold from a special menu designed for Feed the Soul. For every dollar donated, the associations were able to distribute eight dollars worth of food. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Association of Food Banks, 720,231 Canadians use hunger relief programs every month. In addition, 38.7% of today’s food bank users are children.

What can you do?

Giving does not always have to be in the form of money. Sometimes all it takes is volunteering your time to those less fortunate. Placing a smile on a child’s face or anyone else in need is perhaps already a gift for many as well as a satisfying experience to you. Restaurants have the power to partner with various organizations and suppliers to give back to the community. A little donation goes a long way. As you become more established, then you may think of offering more. Don’t ever think that what you can only offer is a waste of time. Remember there will always be people out there who will greatly appreciate your contribution. What can you do to help?

If you enjoyed this article, get free restaurant tips via RSS Reader or delivered to your inbox!

Leave a Reply