Charla Huber: Small donations can make a big difference at Our Place

It seems like my weekends lately have been centred around chili. This weekend the 14th annual West Shore Chili Cook-Off was hosted at Belmont Secondary School. I tasted chili with my daughter and we voted for our favourite. We also hosted a booth for my work in a showcase full of other West Shore exhibitors.

The weekend prior, I attended a private chili cook-off event at a friend’s house. A long table was setup outside with an extension cord powering seven crockpots full of bubbling chili. The seven chili cooks were vying for the title of best chili and a cash prize.

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A few days before the event, Bert Vanderveen received a call from his son, Jeremy Vanderveen, who was hosting the event with his girlfriend, Lia.

“I asked my dad to cook a chili for my party. He told me if he won he was going to give the money to charity and said he’d only enter if I promised if I won, that I would donate it too,” said Jeremy.

I didn’t enter the chili contest, but I did pay $5 to vote for my favourite chili of the night. I voted for Chili No. 3, but it was Chili No. 7 that won, Bert’s Chili. The win landed Bert a $150 prize, which he donated a couple days later.

“When I give to others, it gives me a good feeling that lasts a lot longer than if I were to buy something for myself,” said Bert.

I am sure we’ve all participated in a similar party or fun contest with friends. There are times when we all land a little extra money and I like Bert’s example of donating it to a worthy cause. I’d never met Bert before, but I really hope I can follow his lead on this.

Some people donate regularly and others a bit more sporadically. I am inspired by this event because it reminds me that it doesn’t take a big donation to make a difference. Donating prize money is like donating money you never had in the first place, and you still have the satisfaction of winning, with the added bonus of giving back.

After speaking with Bert, I’ve learned he is a frequent donor. He sponsors children overseas, has local charities he gives money to and finds other ways to give back. For several Christmases in a row, he requested non-perishable food items from his children as his Christmas gifts, so he could donate it to the food bank.

“When we were younger, my dad would tell us what his Christmas budget was for us kids. He’d ask us if we wanted donate $50 of our present money to charity or a toy drive,” said Jeremy.

The chili prize money was donated to Our Place to help sponsor the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. Bert has donated $50 each year toward the dinner. This year, he mailed his $50 donation and the $150 prize money.

“He earned this money at a party where there were seven big pots of chili, it was too much food for everyone, and now he’s using the money to help other people with less to enjoy a meal,” said Connie Schmidt, Bert’s partner.

It costs $3.11 to feed each person a holiday meal at Our Place, Bert has covered the cost for 64 people.

As I mentioned, not all donations have to be big donations. I think more of us are in positions where smaller donations are more realistic.

Grant McKenzie, Our Place spokesperson, said the organization receives donations from a variety of places and he has seen all sorts of creative fundraising methods.

“We had an eight-year-old boy ask for money for his birthday so he could donate to Our Place,” said McKenzie.

He shared another story about a woman who found a $20 bill on the ground and used it to start a challenge to her friends to donate their money as well. The woman and her friends raised $500 to cover the cost of breakfast and served it to the clients of Our Place.

Some donations don’t even need to be monetary.

“We have a young woman who comes in at Christmas time and brings about 300 handknitted scarves,” Mckenzie said.

Each Thanksgiving, between 800 and 1,000 people attend the holiday meal at Our Place. Even donating the change in your pocket or car cupholder could provide a nice turkey dinner for someone who would enjoy it.

“Our kitchen staff are really good at stretching a dollar,” said McKenzie.

“You don’t need to be a millionaire to donate.”

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