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Volunteer chefs helping fundraiser for Aldergrove charity

Apron-wearing groups are taking turns cooking for Langley Meals on Wheels
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Karen Long showed a container of pre-made soup created by volunteers and then sold to raise money for Langley Meals on Wheels. (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)

By Frank Bucholtz/Special to Aldergrove Star

Businesses and organizations from around town are stepping up to help out a local charity, all while having fun, building team spirit, and getting their hands a little dirty.

Several groups, ranging from Township firefighters and staff from a financial institution to folks from other businesses and plus volunteers from a local service club, are all taking a turn at gathering around the food prep tables at the Firehouse Cafe in Aldergrove to show their community support and aptitude in the kitchen.

They’re all cooking items that can then be shelved or frozen and sold to raise money for Langley Meals on Wheels.

There’s actually been quite an outpouring of support through this new initiative, that launched shortly after the cafe opened in Aldergrove in January, said cafe co-ordinator Karen Long.

They’ve already had numerous community groups approach, wanting to come in and prepare meals. The food prepared by volunteers is mainly for use at the cafe or for Meals on Wheels clients, but now people can also take some home for a donation.

The program really kicked off back in January when a team of Langley Township firefighter came in to prepare “three alarm chili.”

Dubbed Spoons on Fire, the project saw the firefighters whipping up a big batch of chili in the cafe kitchen. It was then made available for sale at the cafe, and proved very popular.

RELATED: Firefighters whip up ‘three alarm chili’ to help Langley Meals on Wheels

Since then, other volunteers and community groups, such as members of Sts. Joachim and Ann Church, the Aldergrove Business Association, Langley RCMP, students from Aldergrove Community Secondary, and a team from Langley Environmental Partners Society, have taken their turn toiling in firehouse kitchen.

The result: the cafe has a growing list of pre-made food, such as a variety of jams, canned peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, and soups, that are available, and all the money from the sale of preserves, soup, and chili goes back into Meals on Wheels programs, Long said.

The community assistance is greatly appreciated, and is a key part of how MOW is trying to meet its mandate, said Shannon Woykin, executive director of Langley Meals on Wheels Society.

Cafe proving a popular spot

The Firehouse Cafe is turning out to be a welcome addition to the downtown and a popular meeting place.

“It allows us to engage with the community in a way we haven’t done before,” said Woykin. “Our vision and core mandate is to see that no one goes hungry in the community.”

Woykin said the support of Langley Township has been key to the society expanding its services and finding new revenue streams.

As a smaller non-profit society, it is constantly seeking funding, grants and donations, she explained. Having a larger facility (the former Aldergrove firehall, now called the Aldergrove Community Station House) with a full kitchen, meeting places and a prime location makes it easier to offer varied approaches to feeding people and securing the funds to do so.

Prior to the society moving to Aldergrove, it had operated a thrift store in Langley City, which raised $30,000 a year towards meal subsidy programs. It did not have its own kitchen, and meeting space was minimal.

“We felt that if we had our own place and chefs, we could open up and invite everyone in. The clients can come here and have a meal,” Woykin said.

For instance, Sources Food Bank has set up an Aldergrove depot, which operates from the MOW building on Thursdays. On the same day, there are opportunities for Aldergrove residents who use a variety of government programs to meet with service providers at the facility – rather than take the bus to Langley City to go to several offices.

“Our vision is not fully complete. The building is not fully utilized yet,” Woykin said. “The Township has been nothing but generous and supportive, and we really appreciate that. We are about sharing space.”

Of course, the kitchen is also used to prepare meals for delivery by Langley Meals on Wheels, and since the move to Aldergrove, there has been an increase in meals delivered in the eastern half of the Township. Many of the meals go to residents in Langley City and the western half of the Township.

“There’s not an area we don’t deliver in,” Woykin said.

She noted that the organization strives to use local ingredients in the prepared food, making sauces and other items from what some people dub “ugly” produce, which is not in the uniform shape that consumers are used to seeing in stores.

“We have very creative volunteers,” she said. “We make sure we repurpose the produce, as we wanted no waste.”

The cafe is currently open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The space is available for use after hours by community groups. Aldergrove Business Association, for instance, recently held its annual general meeting there.

In future, other plans are expected to include offering classes to teach people cooking skills and how to cook for one.

“Aldergrove has welcomed us with open arms – community members, businesses, and organizations,” Woykin said. “There is a great small town feel here. There are so many volunteer opportunities here, and we are finding plenty of volunteers who live nearby and want to help out.”

For more information about the programs and services offered by Langley Meals on Wheels, people can visit the station house, at 2900 272nd St., call 604-533-1679, or email info@lmow.ca.

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Several individuals and groups have tested their cooking skills in the Firehouse Cafe’s kitchen, creating pre-made soups and preserves that are sold as a fundraiser for Langley Meals on Wheels. (Langley Meals on Wheels/Special to The Star)
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Several individuals and groups have tested their cooking skills in the Firehouse Cafe’s kitchen, creating pre-made soups and preserves that are sold as a fundraiser for Langley Meals on Wheels. (Langley Meals on Wheels/Special to The Star)
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Several individuals and groups have tested their cooking skills in the Firehouse Cafe’s kitchen, creating pre-made soups and preserves that are sold as a fundraiser for Langley Meals on Wheels. (Langley Meals on Wheels/Special to The Star)
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Firehouse Cafe coordinator Karen Long showed off some of the centre’s popular cinnamon buns, made and served on site. (Langley Meals on Wheels/Special to The Star)


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