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Volunteers cook up initiatives to say thanks, help needy

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The Kalin family launched “SouperHero,” in order to support and feed healthcare workers following their long, often draining, shifts. At left, is Dr. Michael Kalin, with a colleague at a Montreal hospital. | Photo: Kalin family

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In this period of social isolation, economic decline and overworked caregivers, gifts of food have become sources of comfort for recipients, and expressions of gratitude for those giving it away.

The below Montreal initiatives were born out of the pandemic. Three months in, they are thriving and serve as wonderful examples of the power of volunteers to make a substantial difference in others’ lives.

 Tikun Gardens

Tikun Gardens encourages families to grow and collect produce to distribute to those in need.

“As the founder of a home-schooling community centre, I’m passionate about alternative education,” said Devorah Feldman, a social worker and mother of three, who launched Tikun Gardens. “I started implementing garden-based learning (for my 8-year-old). Seeing how engaged he was inspired me to find a way to expand his learning and incorporate it into other areas of life and our home. Tikun Gardens was launched to provide children and families with an opportunity to get actively and safely involved in a charitable cause during this very difficult time.”

The group will begin distribution in the late summer once produce is available. In the meantime, one Montrealer is committed to a recurring donation of eggs, while others, such as Beth Israel Beth Aaron Synagogue, Urban Seedling, Facebook group Backyard Planting Montreal and a number of families, are also on board to help.

“Over the last few months, I’ve spoken to many parents looking for fun and safe activities for their kids and their families,” said Feldman. “Gardening represents a win-win-win scenario. Families get to bond and spend time together; they can learn a new skill and they can contribute to charity in a hands-on way.”

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Baking It Forward

An initiative of Federation CJA’s Women’s Philanthropy division, Baking It Forward Mtl was launched to give back to frontline workers at government-run long-term care centres. Since its inception, dozens of Montrealers have baked the same weekly treats – ranging from banana muffins to oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies – for distribution to local orderlies, doctors, nurses and other personnel as a token of gratitude for their tireless efforts. The baked gifts are so well-received that the project was extended an additional two weeks until June 21.

Montreal lawyer Martine Cohen and her teen children are some of the original participants in the project.

Helping give back to frontline workers, Martine Cohen has been Baking It Forward since the initiative began, often with her children. Pictured: Martine and her son Ben Raksi (17) | Photo: Courtesy of Martine Cohen

“It has become a very meaningful part of my Sunday morning routine,” she said.

“When my kids were young they would always ask me how I managed to make the things I baked for them taste so good. I used to tell them I added a special ingredient: love. I always include a special kind of love in these goods; one that is full of appreciation, gratitude and admiration for all that these frontliners are so selflessly doing.”

“It’s directed at people I don’t necessarily know, from someone they don’t necessarily know, just for the sake of saying thank you and hopefully putting a smile on their face, amidst their long and trying days. To me that is the most powerful kind of chesed, and I am truly grateful to have been gifted the opportunity provided by our organized Jewish community to give back, along with 70-plus other dedicated women, in this way.”

Souper Hero

For family physician Dr. Michael Kalin, his wife Aviva Orenstein Kalin and their children Hannah, Lev, Rachel, Avi, Tali and Eytan, Souper Hero is truly a family affair. The Kalins launched their non-profit to provide healthcare workers with a container of frozen soup to take home at the end of their shifts.

The couple has firsthand insights into the effects of the pandemic on healthcare personnel. Michael is the Medical Director of Montreal’s GMF Santé Kildare and Aviva is CEO of Santé Kildare Rejuvenex, a medical aesthetics clinic.

“We have found that many staff leave work physically and emotionally drained,” reads their Facebook page. “Many return home exhausted, and need to prepare dinner for their family, or others get home to an empty apartment with no desire to cook. The goal is to help ease the burden of cooking, ensure that our healthcare workers have a nutritious meal and make them feel appreciated for the heroes that they are!” 

To date, Souper Hero has donated more than 1,300 containers of frozen soup to hospitals and clinics throughout Montreal.

Aviva Engel is an award-winning editor with over 20 years of experience as a freelance journalist. In 2005, Aviva launched Exceptional Family, Canada’s Resource Magazine for Parents of Exceptional Children. Under Aviva’s leadership, 23 issues of the quarterly magazine were produced, winning three consecutive Hygeia Awards from the Canadian Public Relations Society for excellence in Canadian healthcare communications.


Aviva is the director of communications at Hebrew Academy in Montreal and the lead editor and master storyteller at outsourcecopywriting.com

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We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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