Friday, September 28, 2012

A chance for everyone to be thankful

Thanksgiving: a time for enjoying a special meal with family or friends, a chance to give thanks for blessings received. Yet there are many, especially in these times of economic uncertainty, who aren’t so blessed. For some, family is lost or alienated, friends few, and a good meal rarely on the table (if there even is a table). Luckily, there is always one place everyone can sit together and enjoy bird, fixin’s, and companionship: Rosie’s turkey dinners.
Started as a Barrie Christmas tradition 18 years ago, expanding a decade later to include Easter and Thanksgiving, these dinners are put together by Rose Romita, career restaurateur and caterer. In addition to turkey, real mashed potatoes, vegetables, Caesar salad and rolls, guests enjoy each others’ company in surroundings of music and camaraderie.
This year’s dinner is on Thanksgiving Monday (October 8), from noon to 6, at Central United Church. It’s a pretty big affair – about 600 meals served by around 50 volunteers who prepare and serve food, clear dishes, and wash up. One of them could be you! If you’d like to join in helping this joyous and compassionate event, call 705-722-7763 to let Rose know. If you’re busy Monday afternoon, help with preparation Sunday afternoon or Monday morning instead. High school students will receive credit for their hours. Recently been inspired to “pay it forward”? Here’s your chance.
Donations are also graciously accepted, including desserts, pop, juice, water, plastic cutlery, Styrofoam dishes, and turkeys themselves.
Musicians are welcome to come and perform (bring your own instruments); music courtesy of DJ Marty and his sound equipment, and the karaoke tradition continues, if your voice is your instrument.
Sometimes political recognition goes to the cronies, the hacks, the back-room partisans. But sometimes it goes to the truly deserving, and for her selfless aid to the less fortunate, Rosie was recently surprised with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee silver medal from our Member of Parliament, Patrick Brown. When she’s not serving up free food, Rose is looking for members to join her Rose Foundation board in their mission to create transitional housing in Barrie, and you can apply at
For those in need, there are also free Thanksgiving events at Collier United Church on Saturday October 6: Collier’s Table (dinner) at 6 PM and Collier’s Closet (clothing depot) from 3 – 8.
And coming up soon, on Thursday October 18th, is a very special event, the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness’ “Time to Care”, also at Central United. More on this in a future column, but there will be many free services and items for people in need.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may we all have something for which to be thankful!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Rosie provides turkey dinner, companionship"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two events reframe the past for a better future

Two special events this week help us re-frame the past, better live in the present, and craft a better future.
Transition Barrie’s Family Harvest Festival this Saturday celebrates a movement that sees the inevitable departure from carbon dependency and plans for it by re-learning wisdom and skills from yesterday for use today. It works to build a more resilient community tomorrow where people provide for each other instead of depending on vulnerable global supply lines, where local food reliably feeds us, and simple tasks like gardening, mending or making clothing, or preserving food aren’t forgotten but are learned, used, and passed along.
Barrie’s Transition group has meetings all year around, with everyone always welcome to attend, but this annual fall celebration is the most fun and exciting. The site opens at 9 AM at Chappell Farms, where admission includes haunted & boo barns, petting zoo, corn and straw mazes, play areas, wagon rides, and a pick-your-own pumpkin for each attendee. Also enjoy Scales Nature Park’s special reptile display from 10 to 3.
Transition’s activities run from 1 – 7 PM and will include a corn roast with local foods at 5:30. Speakers will address sustainable community energy projects, using hemp char to restore soil and sequester carbon, and the benefits of adding pulses and legumes to your meals. Special guest Chris Philpott from Transition Leamington in England will share experiences from across the pond. Click here for more details.
Transition represents an organized approach toward a softer future, while the other event is the opposite, building on random acts of kindness. Called “Pay it Forward”, it stems from the realization that each of us benefits from others’ support and kindness in ways we can never truly repay. But instead of trying futilely to pay back that social debt, we can pay it forward, helping others in their time of need. This simple concept, dating back centuries or even millennia, often seems foreign in an era where so many selfishly obsess over the “secret” to accumulating personal wealth.
Courtesy of Wings and Heros, Charley Johnson, president of the Pay it Forward Foundation, will be in Barrie on Wednesday, September 26th sharing how paying it forward links the giver and receiver in a spirit of true happiness. After visiting local schools, he’ll give public presentations at the Army Navy Air Force club on George Street at 2:30 and 6:30 to explain the Pay it Forward bracelets he’s created and how they help people around the world realize that the best way of making yourself happy is by taking care of others.
Find out more here. Tickets are only $20, but free for families if you bring your children and a donation to the Barrie Food Bank.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Re-learn yesterday’s wisdom at the Harvest Festival"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Living Green goes Off the Rack with a nifty new name

I’ve written before about Barrie Free Clothing and Nifty Thrifty budget clothing store. Over the course of the spring and summer, they have undergone renovations and a re-birth, and are ready for you to return.
This Saturday at 12:30 PM, we officially baptize the new operation, featuring three operations under one roof: Off the Rack, selling serviceable or re-purposed used clothing; the ReSkill Institute, passing along traditional knowledge, and the refurbished Barrie Free Clothing Centre.
At the ceremony, retiring director Valerie Scrivner will be thanked by Living Green, the host charitable organization, for her years of service. Mayor Jeff Lehman returns to officially re-open the new Centre, which has been ramping up over the summer. Our mission is to provide great, free or inexpensive clothes in a fun and conscious atmosphere, and teach basic life skills for people to manage their lives and benefit others. 
Not only has the Centre been renovated and redecorated, the hours have expanded to 10 – 8 Monday to Friday and 10 – 6 Saturday through the diligent efforts of store manager Dave Reynolds. The location is still behind 110 Dunlop St. W., by the parking lot off Toronto Street, around the corner from Meineke.
As I mentioned, Barrie Free Clothing remains a core function, providing free clothes to people in need. For regular “shoppers”, there is an item limit, but exceptions are made for sudden need, like those who have lost housing to fire, or arrived in town without a proper wardrobe.
Paired with BFC is Off the Rack, like a thrift store with lower prices, carrying items that have been repaired or re-purposed in conjunction with the ReSkill Institute, and consignment fashion clothes. Together, they keep clothes out of the landfill by recycling them to new owners.
The ReSkill Institute, directed by Mike Fox, is the newest aspect of the project. It carries on and expands the previous classes in sewing, mending, and knitting. These traditional money-saving skills are at risk of being lost, so we are recruiting seniors and others with useful skills to come forward and share their experience by helping with these low-cost classes. Future plans of ReSkill, in partnership with Living Green, TransitionBarrie and Back to Basics, include classes in gardening, cooking, food preservation, and other do-it-yourself activities that will be of growing importance in a low-energy, low-carbon local economy.
Donations of serviceable used or unwanted clothing are still key to the operation, so please think of us when clearing out your closet, and bring them in (during our open hours only, please and thank you). One thing that hasn’t changed is how this Centre runs through community volunteer effort. If you’ve never been here before, please join us on Saturday. If you’ve been in before, perhaps even volunteered in the past, we’d love to welcome you back to our new incarnation, to join our new team.
Written for my Root Issues column, published in the Barrie Examiner as "Local clothing and thrift stores ready for more".

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of LivingGreen and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Locaholics don't need to whine when they can wine

As I’ve written before, there is something special about eating food grown in the local soil, and something even more special about pairing it with drinks made nearby. The only drink made commercially right in Barrie today is beer, but you don’t have to reach far to find local wine, either – only as far as the Holland Marsh.
When it comes to wine a special word describes locality: terroir, or how the soil, climate, and other growing factors unique to a particular area are expressed in the unique flavours of the wine or other products grown there. And it has long been believed that the combination of a wine’s terroir with food from the same region is especially sublime, so a Barrie locavore can enhance their experience by being a “locaholic” with the products of the Holland Marsh Wineries.
Touring this operation earlier this year, I found a pleasing combination of the old and the new. The vinting approach is very traditional and hands-on, but also uses state-of-the-art 21st century technology for purification, testing, and cleaning. Founder Roland Nersisyan and his family hail from the wine region of Armenia, source of the earliest documented wine production. They thus bring millennia of tradition to this new facility, tucked into a back-road small acreage just north of Newmarket. To that tradition they add their professional training and intensive knowledge of our local growing conditions.  
Their modest-seeming vineyard produces four varietals of grapes, leading to three lines each of red and white blended wines, available only on site. They offer both dry and semi-dry flavours to suit many palates; sampling them all, my wife and I preferred their premium “cuvee” selections. That they can produce 1500 cases of wine per year from just a few acres of vines is a testament to their skill and the productivity of our local soils, some of the best farmland in Canada.
For those with a sweeter tooth, they also infuse their wines into special chocolate truffles! Drop in to taste their products and you’ll be impressed by how their new, unimposing building fits perfectly with the local rural character, yet hides within it both a cozy stone-and-brick European wine cellar-themed store and a spacious modern production floor with stainless steel equipment. Visitors can walk out over the scenic pond and tour the Wine Club House, their beautiful natural wood event facility, an ideal location for a wedding or other special occasion.
Some might see a 100-mile diet as a limitation, but instead I’ve found it to be a wonderful opportunity to explore and discover the fantastic local foods, beers, and wines I might otherwise overlook. I toast your efforts to eat and drink locally!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title: "Let us combine being a locavore and a locaholic".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of the Ontario School of Economic Science and Earthsharing Canada.