Ruston, Louisiana isn’t exactly close to the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Separated by 3,974 km, one country, and nine states, it would take 37 hours of continuous driving to travel from one place to the other. An impressive journey, so you can imagine how excited we were to welcome The Wesley Foundation, all the way from the South Eastern State of Louisiana, to our Dundas Street location in Vancouver this week!
Here’s what they had to say about their experience:
As a campus ministry mission team from Louisiana Tech University, we had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with Quest Food Exchange. We heard about Quest in researching reviews about volunteering, as well as other organizations in Vancouver.
“Reduce hunger with dignity, build community, foster sustainability.” Quest’s mission statement is visible on their walls and in their words as they strive to give people back the power to make their own food choices while ensuring that those choices are informed and healthful. Their foods are quality-controlled, repackaged, and displayed on shelves, allowing customers to see their options and have the freedom in their choices.
Our team worked behind the scenes, by repackaging foods. It allowed us to see just how great of a problem food waste is and how much can be done to eliminate this problem and with the help of organizations like Quest, the problem of hunger and unhealthful living can be reduced.
Some feedback from our team members:
“Their process is super neat. I love how they re-purpose and reuse for the community. They’re mindful about the customer and the community.”
“I love the dignity part of Quest’s mission and how people can come in and treat themselves.”
“I like how friendly the employees are and how they are dedicated to caring for people and making a difference. I have enjoyed how hands on the volunteer work here is.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s cool, dawg.”
Quest’s hard work seeps into every crevice of the organization, making a welcoming environment to volunteer in. It has been a privilege in being able to serve alongside them. Quest truly is enriching the next generation.
The Wesley Foundation
Campus ministry at Louisiana Tech University
Members of the Centre Street Church (a denomination of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada) recently travelled from Calgary to spend some time volunteering at various Vancouver area non-profit agencies. As part of its “Impact Canada This Summer!” family missions program, 3 separate groups of 8 volunteers spent several hours this week repackaging food and sorting the wide array of goods made available for the patrons of Quest.
Here’s what Darryl Tainsh, a member of the Centre Street Church congregation had to say about his family’s experience volunteering at Quest:
“It’s great to come to Vancouver and witness some of the innovative programs that help those in need. Having the opportunity to travel from Calgary with my family and work together at organizations like Quest makes me think we can bring something back to share with the rest of our Church, which is has now built up to over 7500 strong. Travelling to a place like Vancouver, where the array of social issues and marginalized individuals are of a larger scale than a place like Calgary, my family and I were very pleased to find out there is a place like Quest. I could not believe the amount of food distributed last year was in excess of $5 million, and I never even thought of all the food that would have gone to waste without Quest, or the concept of giving everyone the chance of having healthy food with dignity!”
This is not the first time members of the Centre Street Church have made the trek from Calgary to volunteer at Quest. We recently caught up with Reverend G. Wayne Smele, Executive Director of Global Ministries for the Centre Street Church, to discuss how a relationship was established with Quest:
How long has the Centre Street Church been involved with Quest?
“Through “Youthworks” our students have been serving at Quest in the month of July for a few years. This July was the first time we brought families to Vancouver and served with Quest.”
How did you find out about Quest?
“My first interaction with Quest was when I was a professor at Rocky Mountain College. We did some research on ending poverty and hunger and found the website, then visited the main location. Then it became a regular part of our first year students serving and learning for a week in October.”
What is the process for the congregation to get involved in your various missionary programs?
“The Global Ministries department of the church offers 13 Global Ministry Teams per year in national and international locations. We currently have partnerships with local agencies in Calgary in which our congregation can serve all year long without our team organizing them to serve. This is the first year we took families to 3 locations in Canada for serving. We presently serve in 9 world areas with many church partnerships and plants, agencies and missionaries.”
Specifically, what about Quest stands out?
“I find that Quest uses sustainable model in which we as a church can learn from. By giving a hand up, and empowering people to serve and make a contribution helps a person holistically. It is model that we are exploring in Calgary. I found that the opportunities to serve were great for all ages of families; the flexibility to serve and engage our people was excellent. We will be back to serve in the future, well done Quest!”
On two separate Saturdays recently, members of Circle K International at UBC took time out of their busy schedule to volunteer at Quest. Here is what two of them had to say about their experience:
On the morning of October 12th, 10 of the Circle K International members from UBC arrived early at Quest. The long bus ride left the volunteers excited to discover what the day had in store for us. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Merle, one of the wittiest and friendliest volunteers.
We went straight into work – repackaging candy to be sold for Halloween season. We were all astounded to see the sheer quantity of food that would have gone to waste without Quest. The day went by fast, with productive volunteers and continuous happy conversations around the room. We ended the day with large cartons of wrapped goods and a group of proud faces.
The work itself was not taxing at all, but so crucial in the process of what Quest does as an organization. Looking back, the few hours we spent there really showed me how crucial volunteering is in the cycle of a non-profit organization. It is because of these volunteers who come to Quest daily, weekly and even monthly that they are able to sell affordable consumable goods to those in need. All of us were so grateful for being able to serve in an organization for the community. We are looking forward to our next session at the end of November, and will continue to spread the inspirational work and goals of Quest.
Finally, to all those who are reading this now, if my lack of articulation has not convinced you to spend a few hours of your time at Quest, then perhaps you should just give it a try and tell us how it goes! You are guaranteed to meet amazing volunteers like Merle, learn more about the local community, contribute to a great organization and have a much better perspective on reality.
I know I did.
Written by Cheng Yee Seah
I am back! Once again I was given the wonderful opportunity to help out at Quest food exchange. What started with a simple email turned into something that I look forward to doing every month. On November 30th along with two other students also from UBC Circle K International I headed down to 2020 Dundas steet.
Walking into the packaging room of the non-profit grocery market is always an exciting experience and full of surprises. It is unexpected what you will be doing that day, you don’t know if you would be cleaning up fish heads or repackaging bread. The first time we headed down we repackaged candy, this time we reorganized fruit bars.
The thought of packaging food may sound tedious and extremely boring and trust me, as a university student I 100% understand boring, but let me reassure you, volunteering at Quest is extremely refreshing and entertaining especially since you get the opportunity to work with other eager individuals. The work you do at Quest may appear minimal but is so beneficial on the grand scheme. In the spirit of Christmas we sang Christmas carols and in a blink of an eye, the time was up and we had to leave. Volunteering at Quest is not a chore or agonizing instead I find it to be extremely relaxing and educational.
One of the main reasons I enjoy going to Quest Food exchange is the passion. Of course I enjoy volunteer work, and as a volunteer club at UBC, CKI is always looking for new opportunities to help out around the community, however Quest food exchange has the special twinkle. Maybe it is the spirit of Christmas and exam stress that is getting to my head, but I feel that Quest has a positive aura that appears to emphasize that everything will be all right and regardless of any situation, don’t give up. The optimistic atmosphere at Quest is so inspirational and rejuvenating-no wonder I keep coming back!
Facilitated by Free the Children and the Me to We Foundation, a group of enthusiastic Chinese middle school students came to help out at Quest this past October.
The students – from Beijing Number 2 Middle School in the heart of the Chinese capital – mostly came from privileged upbringings and had little or no volunteer experience.
But their time at Quest proved a symbiotic relationship: we were able to benefit from their youthful exuberance and work ethic, and they were able to leave Vancouver with a sense of achievement and an enlightened social conscience.
Afterwards, some of the students were kind enough to share their thoughts on the experience. Their English is a work in progress, but the positive impact of this short chapter in their young lives shines through the errors in syntax and conjugation.
“Never in life have I experienced and done the work so fantastic and meaningful,” wrote one student; “I will remember this activity my whole life for we did our best to help the poor,” added another.
In the end, one young girl pithily captured the reason why Quest volunteers – the ones who don’t have to return to China, anyway – keep coming back day after day, week after week: “Knowing that we really did something to be helpful feels great.”
By Taryn Grisham
Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District Circle K member, student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Circle K International is the largest collegiate service organization in the world. As the collegiate affiliate of Kiwanis International, Circle K is present on over 500 university campuses around the globe, and spread out over 17 different countries worldwide. Collectively, its members perform tens of thousands of service hours annually, benefiting their campuses, communities, and a number of other charities. With the motto, “live to serve, love to serve,” they aim to make the world a better place, one act of service at a time.
Each year, Circle K International holds a Large Scale Service Project (LSSP) and International Convention (ICON) in a city around the globe. In recent years, this event has taken place in New Orleans, Virginia Beach and St. Louis in the United States. This year, Circle K International has transcended international borders to host its 13th Annual LSSP and ICON in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
LSSP is an opportunity for members to give back to the host city of their convention. Circle K International has about 150 members from Canada and the United States working together across the city in edible gardens, shelters, and constructing playgrounds for two local area schools. One group of these members was able to go to Quest – an organization dedicated to providing healthy and affordable groceries to individuals and families, and is largely run by volunteer efforts.
On June 24, 2013, 10 members of Circle K International arrived at Quest, unsure of what the day would bring. After listening to a brief presentation about what Quest has accomplished and how they operate, the members quickly got to work, volunteering to assist with composting, repackaging food, and stocking the market shelves.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I really liked learning about Quest. I like their idea of making it less stressful and embarrassing to get food. I like the way they stray away from making [getting food] a disheartening process for some families,” Florida District Circle K member Hava Goldstein said.
Goldstein worked with composting at Quest. Composting is a key attribute of Quest’s mission to foster sustainability. In composting, members separated rice from plastic bags to ensure that the plastic would not be thrown away, later ending up in landfills. Composting and separating food from its original containers are two great ways that Quest benefits the environment.
In the Distribution centre, a few Circle K members worked with the repackaging section. Most food comes to Quest in large quantities from local grocery stores that are not the optimal size to place on shelves. Fresh fruits and vegetables, salmon, and crackers are a few items that are donated often. Quest also receives a number of bakery items on a daily basis.
“Food is the most essential necessity, and I’m glad that we’re able to help out,” New York District Circle K member Kat Graves said.
Circle K members worked to create labels and weigh bags of flax corn chips- to be appropriately sized for purchase. Because so much of the food comes to Quest in bulk, it is important that they have volunteers to sort it, in order to keep their shelves stocked for the families that shop there.
“In my home club, we do a lot of volunteering in food banks and soup kitchens. It is very meaningful to be able to do the same thing in Vancouver while we are here for LSSP,” New England District Circle K member Will Bradford said.
Though members of Circle K International have interacted with a variety of food banks and soup kitchens in their own communities, one member found Quest’s mission to stand out from the rest.
“I like how Quest is different from a traditional food bank. We aren’t just sorting cans and giving people boxes of food. People can actually choose what they want and have a say in the food they bring home to their families,” Missouri-Arkansas District Circle K member Clara Oh said.
The area of Quest that has the most interaction is the Not-For-Profit Grocery Market itself. Members from Circle K worked to shelve food, collapse boxes, restock produce, clean the market and organize products. During Circle K’s visit, members were even fortunate enough to see their efforts benefit families that came in to shop while they worked.
“I think it’s really inspiring that this program exists for people in need. Quest assists the people in a number of ways, by getting the community to not only donate money, but also food. Quest is a great opportunity for individuals seeking volunteer experiences and for the families that also need additional assistance,” says Texas-Oklahoma District Circle K member Allison Prisco.
Circle K members really enjoyed working with Quest during their first day of LSSP. Not only does it have a great sense of community, filled with hard-working staff, but it also mirrors some of the principles that Kiwanis upholds. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time.
“Quest is helping communities, one family at a time, which is similar to Kiwanis’s mission statement. Working with them today shows how closely our missions parallel, and it was a great opportunity to be a part of that,” Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District Circle K member Cody Schara said.
Working with Quest was a great opportunity for Circle K members to see the difference they were making in Vancouver. As it was many of the members’ first visit to the city, being able to work in a venue where so much service toward the community is taking place made for a very memorable experience. Circle K International is proud that they were able to help Quest today!