There is something very comforting about turkey dinner. The aromas, the heartiness, the all day anticipation as your home becomes a haven of sweet smells. And when some of Edmonton's self professed "Foodies" meet in the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta kitchen to make a turkey dinner for the House families, yummy things are guaranteed to happen...
This event was all about the FOOD... big, huge, local turkeys from ACME Meat Market, Green Bean and Tomato Salad featuring green beans and grape tomatoes from Blush Lane Organic Market, mashed spuds (these had been donated to the House and were not local but needed to be used... We are all about LOCAL but we are not about WASTE...) and all the fixins...
"I would love to take all of these House kids home with me!"
There was much camaraderie in the kitchen as hands and hearts prepared dinner, the discussion ranging from local politics to local trends, to a common appreciation for the keen sense of community fostered by the people of Edmonton. It is certainly no secret that Edmonton boasts a richness of community as no other city, but nowhere is this sense of community more prevalent than in the "#yegfood" Community.
All one has to do is search the #yegfood hashtag on twitter to be connected with one of the richest and most passionate communities in Edmonton. And the kitchen at Ronald McDonald House was no exception.
"It's always wonderful being invited into Ronald McDonald House by Local4Local4Local. Thank you SO much for including us!
The team of Local Food Enthusiasts was led by the gracious and fun owners of ACME Meat Market, Corey and Amanda Meyer (www.acmemeatmarket.ca). Lending even more to the experience, Corey and Amanda brought their two boys to help out, whom they lovingly refer to as their "Mini Meats". The Meyers were joined by the food appreciations of Nicholas Thickett (nthickett.wordpress.com) and Debra Ward (edmontonambassador.wordpress.com). What a great group of Edmonton's finest!
PS. Why YES... that may just be the world's largest potato masher in Corey's hands!
Dinnertime arrived and the family style dining room was FULL... Clearly the smell of turkey roasting all day called to the masses! (And the House has lots of 'out patient' families right now, which makes a big difference in dinner attendance). The turkey was devoured, with just enough left for the next day's soup initiatives (more to follow later in the post!), the salad was gone down to the last green bean, and there was very little of all meal components left over. (Can there BE a better compliment to the kitchen??!!)
The House families were able to decompress over a hearty home cooked meal, and our "Foodie" guests were able to enjoy a meal with our families, furthering their knowledge of and exposure to the culture and miracles of RMHNA.
"Check out Local4Local4Local for an experience that will change your life. Words can't describe the feeling...
As we enjoyed each other's company in the kitchen, we were joined by some of the House Heroes: our group met a 'Warrior Mom' from Newfoundland whose daughter is fighting congenital heart disease. Their family has been using the services of RMHNA since 2006 (pre-expansion, when we served only 16 families as compared to our present 32, AND there was no 'Home for Dinner' program). She expressed her heart felt gratitude at our Edmonton Community showing such care for the families at RMHNA through dinner; in her world, it allows her an excuse to leave her daughter's bedside for an hour or two, and forces her to care for her own health with a nutritious home cooked dinner. Another 'Warrior Mom' came and was introduced; her little guy is also fighting a congenital heart disorder and the last few weeks have been extremely harrowing. She, also, shared just how appreciated the program is, and thanked Local4Local4Local for its frequent contribution. Last but certainly not least, we were joined often by the sweet little 22 month old Sophia. She LOVED to hang out with us in the kitchen. LOVED to see what was cookin' in the big pots, LOVED to come and bless us with her blue eyed, beautiful little smiling face, and we LOVED to have her near. She stole not only the show... but our hearts. She is waiting the arrival of her new baby brother, who also is arriving into the world with a congenital heart defect. And she is a RAY OF SUNSHINE for her family in the most difficult times of waiting. At the end of the evening we received this thank you note from our little friend; suffice it to say that this will be a permanent treasure in the Local4Local4Local library.
Approximately 35% of the families who visit Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta have a child in cardiac care...
The next day saw Local4Local4Local in the kitchen again ~ this time the mission was SOUP! There is a new program being "cooked up" at RMHNA which promises to extend the donations of the community that supports the 'Home for Dinner' program as Local4Local4Local does. In its beginning stages, this program, affectionately known as 'Soup Group' thus far, takes leftovers from the Home for Dinner Program and turns them into comforting and hearty soups which can then be delivered to the House families as they spend time with their child in care at Stollery Hospital. The outcome? More meals served to House families, less cost to House families that would normally purchase lunch from the hospital cafeteria, likely better food quality for those same families, and better use of donated resources with less waste!WIN! WIN! WIN!
Local4Local4Local is looking forward to having an ongoing role in this program; it will be perfect for our businesses who can financially only afford one dinner service for the year, but have the desire to be more invested and involved (average cost of soup supplies is $20-$30 due to the use of leftovers). It will also be a great fit for our larger corporate partners who desire a team buiding volunteer opportunity during work hours.
Warmest thanks to L4L4L Member Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography (www.timelessedge.com) and friend of L4L4L, Annette Hedley, for their help in preparing the two soups. We were able to create a homemade turkey noodle soup from our leftovers the previous day AND a chili bean soup. Cargill in Spruce Grove is also a very big supporter of RMHNA (they do a monthly Home for Dinner corporately AND offer their employees the choice to make donations automatically from their paycheques) and they had cooked a BIG batch of chili recently. We were THRILLED to be able to extend their dinner kindness into lunch kindness for House families.
The most wonderful part of 'Soup Group'? The families are given notice of soup availability and selection the day before and can ORDER lunch to their room at the Stollery / Mazankowski hospitals... and we deliver it right to them! Not only do we deliver lunch... we deliver smiles, hugs, and messages of comfort to our hospital bound little House Heroes and their families. Honestly? Doesn't get any better than THAT...
Almost 300 meals (based on three meals per day) per year are covered by the 'Home for Dinner' (& breakfast & lunch) program. Our mission as an organization is to help the House see 3 meals per day times 365 days per year COVERED.
After lunch delivery, it was time for a TEA PARTY! It just so happened that Erin Isfeld, News Anchor for Edmonton's CTV News came to the House to have a Tea Party with our little 'Superheroes'. Erin will be emceeing this Saturday's Storybook Ball with CISN Radio Personality, Chris Scheetz. Erin dropped by not only for tea, but also to film a spot for the news to promote the Family Friendly Fundraiser Gala: Storybook Ball. How CUTE are all of these little House Heroes, all in super costumes, enjoying a laugh with the gracious Erin Isfeld? TOO CUTE, that's how cute!
Thank you to the time and talent of L4L4L Member Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography who stepped outside of 'soup duty' to capture some sweet, sweet images of the tea party...
With our first PUBLIC event, the 'Mixed Up Mixer' successfully under our belts just a few days ago, why not hold our first event just for the Families that we serve at Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta less than a week later! Keep that momentum going!
And so it is that this Monday, February 25, 2013 will find a group of local Edmonton and area food enthusiasts in the kitchen at Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta for Local4Local4Local's
"FOODIES IN FEBRUARY"! Led by the amazing Corey and Amanda Meyer of ACME Meat Market (www.acmemeatmarket.ca) and joined by a smattering of our Twitter followers who answered our callout on Twitter this past week, a few Edmontonians with a passion for LOCAL FOOD will gather to prepare and provide a locally sourced meal to the Families of RMHNA and network and have a ton of fun together while doing it!
The familes of Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta will be dining on a locally sourced turkey dinner with all the trimmings... and the menu has been selected with care. Not only is turkey dinner hearty, healthy, and comforting... it is SOUPABLE! There is a new program being "cooked up" at RMHNA which promises to extend the donations of the community that supports the 'Home for Dinner' program as Local4Local4Local does. In its beginning stages, this program, affectionately known as 'Soup Group' thus far, takes leftovers from the Home for Dinner Program and turns them into comforting and hearty soups which can then be delivered to the House families as they spend time with their child in care at Stollery Hospital. The outcome? More meals served to House families, less cost to House families that would normally purchase lunch from the hospital cafeteria, likely better food quality for those same families, and better use of donated resources with less waste! WIN! WIN! WIN!
This is definitely a program that Local4Local4Local will be embracing, and offers up more opportunity for involvement for our On Board Businesses, prospective partners and the community at large!
The event will culminate BACK in the RMHNA kitchens on Tuesday morning where L4L4L friends and volunteers will assemble turkey sandwiches and make turkey noodle soup to be served to House families that day. And we are THRILLED to be a part of it!
SOUP by its very nature is warm and comforting. It is our vision that Local4Local4Local can be a source of warmth, comfort, and FUN through our 'Foodies in February' event ~ all while contributing to our local food economy!
What a FANTASTIC way to increase awareness of both our Local4Local4Local organization as well as the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta that our organization supports! Last Thursday afternoon saw a group of fantastic business people from Edmonton and surrounding areas come together for a 'Mixed Up Mixer' at Edmonton's lovely Petroleum Club. The Local4Local4Local organization desired to offer guests a unique and intentional networking function, and from the feedback received after the event, they hit their mark.
The event was ambassadored by a group of local business people whose role was threefold: open their circles through invitation to the event, greetings and farewells to guests onsite, and ensuring that the event itself was inclusive.
"Tonight was an exceptionally heartfelt evening of #supportlocal #yeg with some amazing people."
Guests attending the event had to answer three questions:
1. What is your product or service?
2. What does your business or career need right now?
3. What do you hope to come away from after this event?
By each guest intentionally sharing what their business requires at present, connections and collaborations could be made much more easily. It also seemed to create a level 'playing field', recognizing that no matter where your business rates on any 'success scale', there is always a need that can be filled towards reaching a future goal.
As well, around the room were a series of 5 survey questions, each with its own QR Code, and guests were encouraged to answer. The questions ranged
from naming a local business that 'WOW'd' you recently with its product or service (Cafe Tiramisu, Hotel MacDonald, and AMA were among the named) to rating how much the guests rely upon referrals in their business, to asking for input on how to respond to negative comments or feedback posted about your business on social media. It was interesting to hear the conversations that ensued surrounding these surveys as guests responded. The guests will be provided with a breakdown of the data collected as a follow up to the event, as an added value 'bonus' for attending.
"Incredibly honoured to be part of this amazing and unselfish group"
Local4Local4Local Founder, Kristi Hammond, shared the mission and vision of the Organization, and invited the businesses in attendance to join the organization. The guests were pleasantly surprised to hear that the financial and time commitments to be a part of Local4Local4Local are extremely manageable, even for independent small business. As well, Jen Panteluk, Business Development Officer for Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta shared some of the mission and vision of the House that L4L4L supports. Guests learned that the House relies on the kindness of community for 90% of its $2.4 million annual budget. They also heard how meaningful and appreciated the support given by L4L4L to the House's 'Home for Dinner' Program is, and how the organization has helped bolster the program.
"We love what Local4Local4Local does to support the House!"
Last but certainly not least, the event ws sponsored by some of Edmonton & Area's finest businesses and friends of Local4Local4Local. HUGE shouts out to Edmonton Petroleum Club for hosting our event AND sponsoring the amazing Signature Cocktails at the event. The cocktails were original creations by the talented Tarquin Melnyck, Bar & Promotions Consultant and 2012 Top 3 Finalist Canada Angostura Cocktail Challenge, and they were WONDERFUL! The light and fruity 'Alstromeria' was a fan favourite and promises to make its way to more Local4Local4Local events! Wine and 'bubbly' was graciously sponsored by Sasha McCauley, agent for Authentic Wine and Spirits, a 'Business 2 Business' liquor company catering to restaurants and clubs in Edmonton and area. The event was captured in photos by the talented Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography, specializing in event and corporate photography. And Somerville Wine Room on 124th Street was kind to grant all businesses who joined the Local4Local4Local Organization at the event with a dining gift card for their lovely restaurant.
The success of this event relied on so many: Ambassadors, Local4LocalLocal Business Members, Sponsors, and Guests. Our heartfelt gratitude to all who played a role.
"What next?" you may ask? Watch for more Local4Local4Local events in future! We are PROUD to be offering some additional public events through the year, such as The Mixed Up Mixer, to promote and support our organization's mission and vision... but we are also PROUD to be offering some events in the kitchens of Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta to further engage our VERY 'rich' Edmonton community, and provide further fun, food, and fellowship for the families that we diligently serve at Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta. Stay Tuned!
Today was a day for PERSPECTIVE... I founded this Local4Local4Local Organization because I desired to 'be of great service' to the families of Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta. In the 18 months that our organization has been of service in the House, I have met plenty of PERSPECTIVE. I am a Mom... I have two amazing kiddos who have teensy weensy medical issues. I come home from each and every experience at Ronald McDonald House GRATEFUL for that very fact. I hug them closer, hold them tighter, and generally utter many thanks under my breath for their health.
HEALTH is an obscure word to the family circles of Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta. This is the invisible ghost with which our little House Heroes and their families spar. It is the most coveted outcome of all families to cross the threshold of the House. And it is the least readily used adjective to describe our Kids in Care at the House. It is something that those of us who are blessed to HAVE take very for granted.
Today I took my daughter to the doctor. Her symptoms: unaturally large lymph glands, tonsils swollen almost closed, and a low grade fever. As a result, she needed her first blood test to eliminate Mono from the equation...
She did not take this news well. At all. Nor did I. She clung to me in the laboratory, crying and clinging in fear. I clung equally, feeling regret for having to put a 7 year old girl through the fear of what was to come.
I remembered all of the little Heroes that I have come to know ~ and YES ~ love ~ in my personal time of service at RMHNA. I thought of all of the 'pokes' that our little Heroes endure, day in, and day out. And I began to tell my little Missy of the story of little 'J'... a three year old little Hero whom she and I have BOTH gotten to know due to his extended stay at RMHNA. I told of the fact that her day was to have one small poke, from one small needle; I told of the fact that little 'J's days hold numerous pokes, prods, and other uncomfortable procedures. Every Day.
And she began to be soothed. I would imagine she pictured our little friend, 'J'... getting poke upon poke... whatever that looked like in her subjective reality. And she calmed.
I, on the other hand, became MORE afraid. I FELT a small piece of the HUGE fear that our House Moms feel every day ~ EVERY DAY ~ as they watch their little peeps get poked and prodded in the name of Health. My heart grew heavy at the thought that my wee, small, moments of fear and sadness are but a pebble in the ocean of what our House Warrior Moms must feel.
And I gained that pearl of wisdom called PERSPECTIVE.
Tonight I celebrate the Warrior Moms of RMHNA. Some of those mamas hold their 'healthy' children dear this night, fearful of the return of illness. Others hold their little peeps closely, furtively wishing and praying for that elusive HEALTH. Still others mourn their little ones lost... hopefully finding peace and comfort in memory.
I find myself renewed. Renewed to LOVE my children thoroughly... Renewed to be of good service in my moments of service in association with Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta... Renewed to lead this organization of service more thoroughly, along with our incredible team of Advisors, and RENEWED to embrace and serve our Warrior Moms of RMHNA who have given me much PERSPECTIVE today.
March's 'Home for Dinner' by Local4Local4Local brought Bushmen Enterprises (bushmen.ca), Key Lime Athletic Wear (keylimecanada.com) and Memories Through Story (memoriesthroughstory.com) into the Ronald McDonald House together. We decided upon a taco bar fiesta theme for dinner, and once again the amazing Elaine Wilson (alliumfoodworks.com) was a godsend of knowledge and sourcing for finding our needed ingredients locally, and how best to prepare pulled beef and pulled chicken for the tacos. The 'crueset' style dutch ovens at the house were put to great use to braise the chicken and the beef early in the afternoon. When we arrived at the house at 4pm to begin preparing our taco fiesta, the house was already alive with the wafting aromas of a Mexican cantina! One of the coolest parts of this dinner was the 'mini chefs' that joined us in the kitchen! The children of Bushmen and Memories Through Story joined in on the fun, and were fantastic little helpers in the kitchen! It was a fantastic way to teach the calue of volunteering AND have fun at the same time! And being in the house with the children and families who are fighting for wellness was a great gratitude reminder for all...
Our first greeting upon arrival was from a Grandma who was happily packing for a trip home. Her grandchild who is in care at Stollery was able to go home for a few days, and Grandma was getting everything in order for the family. She expressed her delight that Local4Local4Local was in the house to cook dinner that evening, saying that the meals that our organization and the other communities and families that participate in the 'Home for Dinner' program provide are a blessing to the families in residence at the house. She shared what a relief it is at the end of days that are so weary after caring for the needs of both the child in care as well as their siblings all day to arrive back at the house from the hospital and be able to sit down to a hot home cooked meal and not have to think about making dinner. One more reinforcement that our service in the house is needed and appreciated.
Our menu for the evening was a Taco Bar with ALL the fixins: Pulled Beef & Pulled Chicken, braised 'low and slow' in a mix of chili base, created by Cooks Corner, and stock. Homemade Pico De Gallo Salsa. Homemade Guacamole. Cheese. Sour Cream. Diced tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, cabbage. Hard and soft shells. Hand cut tortilla chips and some decadent Peach and Mango Salsa, both created by Cooks Corner (cooks-corner.ca). YUMMM!!!
OH... and NO PRESSURE. But the Board of Directors for the house was meeting at the house this evening. So we fed them, too! An honor to shake hands with the group of individuals who so lovingly care for some of the needs of the house.
And then when dinner was done, there began a fun game of BINGO! Our junior chefs were ALL to happy to forego dish duty for a bingo dauber and the prospect of winning one of the fun prizes.
And the evening closed with a tour of the brand new suites... Beautiful. And how exciting that the house can now accomodate 32 families!!
Once again, our evening, hearts, and lives were warmed by being of service in the best 'house' in Edmonton. Our hearts and tummies left full. Thank you, RMHNA.
Last Wednesday was an epic day. It was a day that I had anticipated and feared, all at the same time. It was the fruition of a dream brought to life: my dream of being of good service to an incredibly worthy charitable organization, and of inspiring others to do the same. I feared many things: speaking at the event (without weeping ~ this journey is near to my heart, as a mother and as a heart-driven business woman), failure in procuring all 24 needed businesses to begin the journey, and most of all, the weight of upholding the reputations of all of the businesses on board weighed very heavily.
And so it was that the big day arrived... and it was not without incident. I was in a car accident that day, our chef for the evening, Elaine (don't worry ~ I'll come back to her in a moment) had lost power in her commercial kitchen that day ~ it was a day where Murphy and his crazy laws ruled the roost!
My vision for the evening was that the business representatives would arrive and mingle, getting to know each other a little before eventually meeting in the kitchen, be taken on a tour of the house, and realize fully how important they are to the process. People arrived, many of whom I had never met outside of emails and telephone calls, and it was somewhat stilted. Not a whole lot of mingling.
Then the amazing Jen Panteluk, the evening's representative for the house, took all but a few of us (who - except for our chef, Elaine, had already been on a tour) through the amazing house in its entirety. They saw the kitchens, family rooms, games room, exercise area, underground parkade, family suites, mother's rooms, quilt room, and 'magic room'. (Want to know about the magic room? Reply to this blog post!) Suffice it to say that the group of Local4Local4Local business people that returned after the tour were a different group. The question of "WHY" am I here? had been answered, and you could almost see the sleeves rolling up in preparation to get into the kitchen and get cooking!
Speaking of the kitchen... one of our on board businesses is Allium Foodworks, a personal chef service operated by Elaine Wilson. Elaine kindly provided our DIVINE and tasty treats for the evening... which, again, we will revisit.
My children, Owen aged 9 and a half and Amanda aged 5 and a half, attended the evening with my husband. It was such a great feeling to have them there. Amanda was born premature, and her arrival was not without incident. Our short 10 day stay in NICU following her birth was challenging. 10 days. There are families that have been at the house for 10 months. 10 months. Perspective.
The individuals attending the function each introduced themselves,
shared their business functions, and shared WHY they chose to participate in Local4Local4Local. It was where the proverbial rubber hit the road. Many shared how they felt as parents touring the house, and feeling such empathy for the families in crises that the house's four walls enclose. Some spoke ~ with tears ~ of their own experiences with children who had suffered illness or crisis, and as a result they were able to empathize very strongly. Still others just shared the passion of insight into what other human beings face as their 'reality' and for which we hold them as heroes and wish to make life just a little easier.
My children also granted some humour to the evening. Upon completion of the tour, Jen Panteluk asked the group if they had any questions below returning downstairs. Amanda piped up, and said "I will give this tour FIVE out of FIVE stars!"... Then after I had finished my verbal presentation, I also asked if anybody had questions before we made our way into the kitchen for treats. My son put his hand up, and when I asked him to speak up, he spouted out "Kristi Hammond, can we please eat now?"... Comic relief is always appreciated.
Back to the kitchen... after my long speech, in which I set out some protocol and policy for our organization (read: DRY) we FINALLY got to 'Mangia!' on some delicious and delectable treats (which I helped to prepare!!) by the incredibly talented and humorous Elaine Wilson of Allium Foodworks. She served red bean empanadas (YUM!!), pesto, beef, and cheese baguette bites, crudites and dip, dark chocolate fudge and black bean brownies, and some refreshing punch. We ate well.
While all of this was going on, a few families of the house were also hanging out alongside us. Their presence and reality were a reminder through the evening as to WHY we were there. I fell head over heels for MORE RMHNA little people: Baby E who has undergone heart surgery and is a sweet little cherub who offers smiles and coos a-plenty. Baby D who has undergone a FIVE organ transplant, and whom I was able to cuddle at the end of the evening, tubes and all, as he smiled, coo'd, and pulled at my earring. And my little friend, D, who is recovering from a liver transplant and is now inexplicably wheelchairbound as he suffers from 'doctor puzzling' back spasms. He is wise far beyond his years, matter of fact about his physical condition, and wants nothing more than to experience a 'normal' day.
And so it is that our journey officially begins. We are 24 local businesses, who are coming together in groups of three, once per month, to make a small difference in the lives of families living at The Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta. We are committed to supporting our local economy by buying all food for our dinners from local sources as much as possible. We are committed to doing well by doing good. We are committed to being ambassadors of the house and its families as well as of each other.
And we are committed to make a difference. Together.