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Our Community: Homemade baking, Arbutus Singers, Gingerbread Showcase

The Second Chance Café, which celebrated its official grand opening Dec. 1, is a social enterprise operated by survivors of brain injuries.
Head baker Toni King with baked goods at the newly opened Second Chance Cafe at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. The cafe is staffed by survivors of brain injury. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Second Chance Café opens at Cedar Hill Rec Centre

Stop by for coffee, sandwiches and homemade baked goods — they make amazing peanut butter cookies — at the newly opened Second Chance Café at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.

The café, which celebrated its official grand opening Dec. 1, is a social enterprise operated by survivors of brain injuries.

The initiative operates in partnership with the Cridge Centre for the Family, which has offered programs and supportive services for people with brain injuries since 1991.

The café provides an opportunity for survivors to find employment and develop skills and resources as part of their healing journey.

“The Second Chance Café is a tangible and effective way to support survivors of brain injury with meaningful employment, community engagement and social opportunities,” said Joanne Linka, manager of communications and fund development. “The Cridge Centre is immensely proud of this initiative and the team at the Café — it is a fabulous place to grab a snack and enjoy the casual and fun setting.”

For more information, go to

Holiday favourites sung by the Arbutus Singers

The Arbutus Singers will perform their annual Christmas Concert, with proceeds to charity, at St. Patrick’s Parish, Dec. 6.

This is the 26th year that the six-part choir, which has about 70 members, has performed a holiday concert. The singers will perform a number of holiday and seasonal favourites.

Other than the pianist, music, insurance and rental space, proceeds from ticket sales go to charity. The group has raised about $500,000 for a range of charities in the past 25 years.

Their major community project is the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s ChoirKids, an educational program that supports children’s choirs in schools.

Tickets are $20 each or $50 for a family. It runs 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Dec. 6 at St. Patrick’s Parish, 2060 Haultain St.

For more information, or to obtain tickets, go to

Pick this year’s winners at Gingerbread Showcase

See what bakers and artists have in common at Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s annual Gingerbread Showcase, at the Hotel Grand Pacific, now until Jan. 4.

This is the 15th year of the event, which sees individuals and teams creating a village of themed gingerbread houses. The public is invited to view the entries for free, although visitors are encouraged to make a donation when casting a vote for their favourite entry.

“The whole family will enjoy seeing the entries up close and personal,” said Scott Dutchak, Habitat Victoria’s CEO. “It seems the bakers try to outdo themselves every year, but you can tell they had real fun with the theme of Family Traditions. I predict a close race for this year’s People’s Choice Award.”

The event is presented in partnership with Parkwood Place and the Hotel Grand Pacific.

Proceeds from the event support Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building affordable homes in the community.

The gingerbread houses can be seen from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until Jan. 4 at the Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St. People who are unable to attend in person can see the entries and vote online. Winners will be announced on Jan. 6.

For information and to donate, visit

Realtors compete on behalf of Rainbow Kitchen

Real estate agencies at each end of Oak Bay Village are engaged in a friendly competition to be crowned the Food Bank Challenge Champion 2023 this holiday season, but the ultimate winner will be hungry clients of the Rainbow Kitchen.

Engel and Völkers and Pemberton Holmes are competing to determine which agency can raise the most food and funds for the region’s food banks during this year’s Realtor Food Bank Challenge. In 2022, the food drive and fundraiser raised more than $10,000 and 1,900 pounds of food.

“We are seeing so many new faces each day, community support is truly invaluable during these challenging times. These amazing connections bring in the much needed food and donations that are essential for our survival as a community kitchen. With rising food costs, we are beyond appreciative of the support we receive through fundraisers and food drives,” said Tracy Chowen, distribution and logistics supervisor for Victoria Rainbow Kitchen Society.

Oak Bay Village businesses, through the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, are also collecting practical gifts and personal items on the Rainbow Kitchen’s Holiday Wish List, including mittens, toothbrushes, socks, sweaters, bus tickets and more. Items can be dropped into a MoBox portable storage unit parked on the front lawn of the Municipal Hall until today — and the two real estate agencies until Dec. 21.

The food bank challenge is held in conjunction with the village’s support of the Island Equipment Owners Truck Parade and Food Drive, which will travel through Oak Bay Village today. People can enjoy music on the front lawn of the municipal hall while volunteers accept food and monetary donations from 5 p.m. today.

Donations of food, cash, cheques and payments by credit card will be accepted at the offices of Pemberton Holmes, 2000 Oak Bay Ave., and Engel & Völkers, 2249 Oak Bay Ave., until Dec. 21.

The Rainbow Kitchen provides 180,000 meals a year, with hot breakfasts, lunches, meal programs to three local schools, senior meals and an in-house free market.

For more information, go to

Project grants support and empower Black youth

Five projects that support and empower Black youth have been awarded funding under the City of Victoria’s International Decade for People of African Descent Youth Grant program.

“The return of this grant program is an important step towards making Victoria a more welcoming and safer city for all residents,” said Mayor Marianne Alto. “By creating opportunities for Black youth, this program helps to improve equity and challenge systemic racism.”

The community-led grant program will fund a youth-led journalism and storytelling program, a documentary about Black student, teacher and staff experiences in Victoria schools, a community celebration to honour student achievements and milestones, a basketball tournament and off-court activities celebrating Black players and their legacy on the game and a series of arts, culture and career-development workshops.

For more information, go to

Sweet treats for the season help Harbourside Rotary

You can enjoy delicious festive treats while making a meaningful difference by purchasing holiday food items from the online Harbourside Christmas Store.

Items that can be ordered for delivery include traditional fruit cake, chocolate truffle bark and brandy ball truffles. You can buy them for yourself or spread some joy and warmth this holiday season by purchasing an item for a low-income and food-insecure senior in the community.

Each purchase goes a long way in supporting Harbourside Rotary Club initiatives throughout the year.

For more information, or to order, go to

Sooke Santa Run marks its 30th year

The Sooke Firefighter’s Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4841 Charitable Giving Campaign have launched their annual giving campaign, culminating in the annual Santa Run, Saturday, Dec. 9.

The goal of the campaign is to raise $30,0000 in honour of their 30th year. The campaign, which is led by local firefighters, is in partnership with the Sooke Christmas Bureau, the District of Sooke, Western Foods and Village Foods.

The capstone of the campaign is the Sooke Santa Run, when four fire trucks decorated with colourful Christmas lights and playing festive holiday tunes (and sometimes their sirens) drive through four neighbourhoods to spread holiday cheer.

The trucks will set off about 5 p.m. Dec. 9. The trucks will pause for about five minutes at designated Santa Claus Pit Stops along the way, where firefighters will greet families in the area, pose for photos and collect donations of cash or food. The firefighters will not be carrying portable electronic payment systems this year.

For more information, maps of all four routes, and to make an online donation and receive a tax receipt, go to Cash (preferred) and food items will be also accepted at the Sooke Fire Hall, 2225 Otter Point Rd., Sooke.

Scouts’ Christmas tree sale is on again

If you want an Island-grown, fresh-cut Christmas tree — and want to support local Scout groups — you can get them at 1st Cedar Hill Scout Hall, starting this weekend.

The Scouts have been selling them at View Royal Canadian Tire since 2008. This year the facility is undergoing construction, so they are moving the trees to the 1st Cedar Hill Scout Hall, 3680 Cottonwood St. (near the corner of Shelbourne Street and Cedar Hill Cross Road).

All proceeds will go toward Camp Barnard, a favourite campground for all Scouting groups and site of the upcoming 2024 Pacific Jamboree.

The tree lot will be open 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends until they sell out.