This Christmas, Alberta's artisans give back
Donations, meal-sharing and fundraisers are among the initiatives to help vulnerable people
Albertans working in the culinary world are already busy enough during the holiday season, as schedules fill up with private events, catering parties and a general influx of patrons.
Yet, some in the industry still find time to give back during one of the busiest times of the year – from music-inspired coffee to extending meal-sharing to local shelters or The Ship and Anchor pub's famous fundraising eggnog in Calgary.
Take Calgary's Monogram Coffee, for example. The boutique coffee company is currently running a partnership with musician Ellen Doty. The singer has created her own custom coffee roast, Favourite Sweater, that is currently being sold at both café locations as well as online, with $5 from the sale of each bag going to the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre.
"Christmas is typically such a commercial and profit-driven season, we thought it would be great to do something a little different," says Ms. Doty.
Each bag of coffee also comes with a download of the latest version of her Favourite Sweater duet with local rocker Danny Vacon.
"We are a business with deep roots in our community and we believe that it is essential for us to be an active participant in building the community that we are a part of. Charitable donations are one way that we can give back," Monogram co-owner Justin Eyford says.
Ms. Doty, who also just performed a private Christmas concert at the centre, and Mr. Eyford both go on to explain that the response to their special caffeinated collaboration has been overwhelming and resulted in the small-batch roast selling out on multiple occasions, needing to be restocked regularly.
Breanne Sich, marketing manager for the year-round initiative Mealshare, says the holiday season is a time when its restaurant partners, although extremely busy, still make pronounced efforts to support a good community cause.
"We personally take this season as an opportunity to show our partners how much they are helping, and that this need is relevant all year-round," Ms. Sich says.
"Our partner charities do a great job of this as well, and often times we see an increase from our partners in terms of [giving back] long after the holidays are gone!"
This program – which is most popular in Calgary, but has now expanded to other cities such as Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa – sees restaurant partners select a menu item that when sold, provides $1 back to the program. That $1 is then transformed into a meal for a client of a shelter in the city the restaurant is based in.
On Dec. 23, Mealshare partners and two of Calgary's busiest brunch restaurants, Blue Star Diner and Dairy Lane Café, are making their entire menus "Mealshare" between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., meaning that every food item ordered will result in a donation being made. In addition to that, the two restaurants have also been encouraging patrons to bring in an ornament to help decorate their community Christmas tree. Every time an ornament is added, the businesses will donate $50 to a local charity.
Jasmine Bell Café, a quirky eatery in Edmonton that offers anything from a simple eggs-and-bacon breakfast or tourtière to dumplings and banh mi has also really taken the "giving" aspect of the holiday season to heart despite the long, busy days.
On Dec. 17, the restaurant hosted a free, open-invitation Christmas dinner for anyone who could use a warm meal and happy atmosphere. The simple turkey dinner – served up with hot drinks and festive, live music, with toques and gloves provided for anyone who needed them – saw hundreds of people in attendance.
Owner Joanna Nyguen could not be reached for comment, but is known locally as a kindhearted business owner who is heavily invested in her community. In October, Ms. Nyguen held her café's first complimentary holiday dinner (Thanksgiving) and paid for it out of pocket. This time around, she and her staff went out of their way to fundraise and cover the costs of last weekend's large-scale meal.
Other interesting seasonal initiatives this year include Calgary's Bro'kin Yolk donating pairs of socks to local shelters with certain menu items sold, as well as Ollia Macarons and Tea selling seasonal "snowman" macarons to raise funds for the Leftovers Aid Society and, of course, The Ship and Anchor's famous fundraising eggnog.