While this may look like a laundry basket filled with bread, it is actually so much more than that.
It is community, business, nourishment and education.
I live in an incredible community (more on how we found this place) and my kids attend a small rural school here. When my oldest was in grade one, a teacher asked if I could help out with delivering bread for the breakfast program.
I thought about it, asked a few questions, and decided it was a volunteer opportunity that checked off the boxes for me - it was flexible, I could fit it into my schedule and do it when it worked best for me (I was working 4 days/week and have a younger child) and it gave me an opportunity to pop into the school and really feel like a part of the school community.
This bread comes from the local LaHave Bakery and the breakfast program is prepared and served by volunteers to all the kids in the school three days a week.
We know that volunteering builds a sense of community (my background is deeply rooted in volunteerism, both in my life and in my work) and that if we engage people in meaningful ways, they are likely to feel better, contribute more, and care for one another.
I don’t want to go down the Volunteer Management rabbit hole too far, but I can’t help but point out that the school really nailed this opportunity. They offered a position that fit my schedule/interest, they are supportive, and they tell me often how much they appreciate me. I feel good about what I do and I am more likely to volunteer at other events because I’m now in the school regularly, connecting and learning about what other volunteer opportunities are coming up. It's a great match and a win-win for both of us!
education & nourishment
We can’t function at our best if we are thinking about how hungry we are or when our next meal will be - the school recognizes this and understands the importance of offering a breakfast program to each child in the school. That’s the important bit - a kid who has had a healthy, nourishing and balanced breakfast is lining up for toast and eggs (read how our local vet saved one of the school laying hens!) with the kid who didn’t have the opportunity to fill their bellies with healthy food that morning.
The kids are also learning where their food comes from - they know the bread is baked down the road at the bakery, made by local people in their community, not miles and miles away in a factory with questionable ingredients.
The school made a decision to purchase bread from a local company, rather than have it delivered by a 18-wheeler from who knows where. The bakery collects the bread that didn’t sell at the end of each day, slices it, and puts it in a special freezer for the volunteer to collect and deliver to the school’s freezer. They sell bread to the school at a discount and I bring a receipt to the office and they pay the bakery at a later date.
There is trust and a strong relationship between the bakery and the school. Kids know the staff at the bakery (some family members work there), students go there with friends for a cookie and then a run around up in the skate bowl while parents visit the bookstore or craft co-op downstairs, the bakery supports school gatherings/celebrations with delicious donations and more. The bakery is very much a part of the school community.
There are so many examples of businesses who feel passionately about their communities. Just this month, as communities were hit with hurricane Dorian, local businesses everywhere stepped up in big ways to be there for their community. The local paper ran a story about 3 local businesses (The Barn, Mateus Bistro, The Biscuit Eater) in Mahone Bay who opened their doors and kitchens to those affected by Dorian.
This echos what a brilliant business coach once told me when I was about to leap into the world of entrepreneurship after years of working in the non-profit sector:
"You can run a business AND be a good person."
That was something I desperately needed to hear in the early stages and a statement I will never forget. I can choose to give back through my business and have been able to do so from the beginning. I offer my services pro bono, gift event tickets to organizations that are aligned wth my values and more. There are so many other ideas I have for ways I will give back to my community.
This leads me to ask, how might you contribute to your community? It could be through your business (sponsor a fundraising event, donate a product, host a meal, offer a service to an organization in line with your values) or something you do as an individual, a group of friends or co-workers, or even as a family.
If you are already involved, what do you do? How does it feel? Why do you help out?
If you are struggling to sort out how to get involved, either as a business or an individual, I would be more than happy to brainstorm with you. In a past life, I was a matchmaker of sorts for individuals, organizations, businesses and groups looking to find and connect with causes that aligned with their values.
Sometimes all we need is a talking partner and a nudge to make a move on something, right?
And remember, it doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated or time consuming to be meaningful...it could simply be popping into the bakery once a month to collect bread for the breakfast program.
Let me know if you’d like to talk through how you can get involved and support your community.