Charla Huber: Creative fundraising yields more rewards

With the amount of need in our region, our province, our country and beyond, there are fundraising campaigns all year, all for worthy causes. We can’t give to every fundraiser, and each of us picks a few close to our hearts to donate either our time or our money.

With the number of worthy causes, organizers are coming up with more and more creative ways to generate exposure and entice people to join.

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Last Friday was the launch of Canstruction at Hillside Mall. This is the most creative food drive I’ve ever seen; it adds art, creativity and awe factor.

If you’ve never heard of Canstruction, it’s where engineers and architects create teams that build structures out of non-perishable food items. Teams started building at Hillside Mall last Friday night during mall hours and resumed for Saturday mall hours. When the time is up, the structures are left as is. For the past week, they have been on display at Hillside Mall.

Canstruction is an international competition occurring in more than 150 cities. The architects and engineers design the structures. They select cans based on size, colour and label, entering the dimensions of the cans and creating a blueprint for the artwork.

For three years, I’ve donated my time for this event, assisting on structures designed by Low Hammond Rowe Architects. We’ve build a rocket out of tomatoes, a mask out of beans and this year a tsunami out of chicken-noodle soup.

Each team purchases the non-perishable food items used in their structures and then donates them to the Mustard Seed Street Church.

This year, more than 41,000 cans of food were collected from the structures alone. I was told it was enough food to last the food bank for more than six months.

I’ve read that Canstruction fundraisers are known to bring in more food donations than traditional food drives, and to know that 12 teams in Greater Victoria can keep the Mustard Seed’s shelves stocked for six months is remarkable.

The public is encouraged to vote for their favourite structures by donating food or cash. These donations also benefit the Mustard Seed.

This year, the structures consisted of significantly more large restaurant-sized cans than in previous years.

Instead of putting industrial-sized cans of stewed tomatoes in individual hampers, the Mustard Seed donates them to local non-profits through the Good Food Network program.

Two days before hearing this from Mustard Seed staff, I was listening to staff from Sooke Family Resource Society talking about this program and how they use it to host community dinners for their clients.

More than 60 non-profits in the region use this program. Organizations can register to be a part of it, and can order available food items to assist with their programs. The available items are posted online, and the non-profits shop online and select which items and the quantity they would like to order. This helps these organizations offer more services to more clients and keeps the costs down.

The Mustard Seed explained to me this program helps them broaden their reach as an organization and serve a larger demographic. I knew Canstruction was helping provide food for individuals and families, but I didn’t know that the donations were being distributed like this, too. It’s remarkable the reach this fundraiser has.

For the past five years, the Dahlia Society has been hosting Canstruction in Greater Victoria. The society co-ordinates the venue, the teams, the logistics and food donations. This year, it had a record number of teams and donations.

Each year I’ve participated in Canstruction, my daughter has come, too. She’s eight, and this is her third year participating. She has helped with many tasks from cutting and rolling out cardboard for the structures to be built on, to putting up signs, to taping and prepping cans for the structures, to being a passport-stamper on Family Can Day.

When I told her that we were going to spend our Friday night volunteering she said: “Yes! I love Canstruction. I was wondering when that was going to start again!”

It made me happy to see she has been conditioned to roll up her sleeves and help out. The slogan for the event is “One CAN make a difference,” and you know what? It’s true.

Charla Huber works in communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Group of Societies.

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