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Random acts of kindness day

Today is International Random Acts of Kindness Day, meant to celebrate and encourage random acts of kindness, large and small. It is often said that kindness can be contagious, which is fully evident when you hear the story of CLUB SANDWICH.

In March 2020, during the first pandemic lockdown, Darryl Neilsen wanted to do something to give back. His simple idea of making sandwiches to bridge the gap between hot meals provided by a local mission is just one of those acts of kindness that proved to be contagious. Neighbours jumped in to help, and Darryl fostered what is now Club Sandwich's growth by collecting donations in coolers on his front porch. Now, finishing its 84th weekly sandwich drive, it operates out of a local church, has 600 members and makes and receives on average 1,400 sandwiches a week!

We wanted to know more about the remarkable people behind Club Sandwich and how they inspired hundreds of people to join in their efforts to build an overnight community grounded by acts of kindness.

Darryl Neilsen - Founder

Q - Your idea created a platform that allowed a community to flourish at an astonishing rate. What do you think the secret sauce is?

DN - Peanut Butter.

Not only is it in at least 50% of the sandwiches… it's sticky!

Seriously though, it is the ease of volunteering. It is stress-free, something one can do on own time at home or with a group of like-minded community friends in a beautiful local kitchen.

And friends always have your back. If a volunteer cannot make it one week, they can trust that a fellow club member will jump in and 'sandwich' that gap for them.

Q - In an interview with CTV's Lisa LaFlamme, you said, "I wanted to come out of this -- at the end of the pandemic -- not just saying what I did during the pandemic, but who I helped."

So many ideas never see the day of light. Was there one thing that inspired you to set Club Sandwich in motion?

DN - I'm fortunate to be in a position to help others, and I wanted a way to connect with others at a time when it was recommended not to do anything in person. I'm really surprised that Club Sandwich has grown into a community; however, it makes sense because it has a clear purpose, and we try to keep it fun.

Q - Have you seen firsthand the effect Club Sandwich has on the recipients' lives?

We receive great feedback from the workers at the missions we serve in eastern Toronto. They are the heroes that meet the recipients weekly and sometimes daily. We are reminded weekly that none of our sandwiches go uneaten. Now that we’ve provided over 100k sandwiches it helps us understand our privilege to be able to help meet the meal gap.

Q - What about Club Sandwich's effect on the community members who give?

DN - We obviously have the desire to connect in our DNA, and with Club Sandwich, our members, myself included, can connect with purpose.

"It's been a great connector of the human spirit. "

Q - When you think of Club Sandwich - how does it make you feel?

DN - My feelings have shifted over time. At first, I simply felt that I wanted to help those in line for sustenance at the Missions. When I think of Club Sandwich today, I feel a sense of responsibility for the volunteers and their experience in giving back to the community.

I'm feeling like a guide and hope they get out of their giving what I get out of mine.

Jo-Anne Wilson

Superstar Co-Ordinator at CS Headquarters

Q - From your hands-on perspective, Club Sandwich does so much for our community - is there more that you would like to see done?

Food is a communal endeavour - from growing, making and sharing. I have learned so much from being a part of Club Sandwich (so much that I plan to get my certificate in Food Security!). I would like to create more significant networks and opportunities for volunteering. It would be awesome to be a part of programmes that provide things like lunches for kids and families, including a strong focus on seniors.

Q - You have had groups of students volunteer; what are some of the things you think Club Sandwich is teaching our youth?

Interacting with students is an awesome and exciting experience. Young people can be very aware of issues, and this group was no exception. Dealing with them and my Saturday student volunteers allowed me to see that CS teaches young people that there is a need for help. It also teaches them that they have the ability to create change and help others. They learn to understand that gathering all of their smaller actions together can create a significant impact. This is a very important lesson to learn.

Q - Club Sandwich has grown from Darryl making and dropping off sandwiches to having you and a team coordinating hundreds of volunteers, various streams of donations and delivering thousands of sandwiches each week...How do you do it?!!

I call myself a "trencher".

I like being hands-on and side by side with our volunteers. Their energy feeds me, and I learn so much about the community, their experiences, and their larger community. They teach me things, and I am always open to their suggestions. This is exciting. It motivates me and sustains me on so many levels.

Q - Have you been able to see firsthand the effect Club Sandwich has on the recipients' lives?

On occasion, I have delivered our PBJ sandwiches to community pantries. I sometimes see the people who come and get them. Often, one could never guess that they might be food insecure.

I feel that providing our sandwiches helps make some basic choices and decisions less difficult - like paying for shelter versus food.

Q - What about the effect joining Club Sandwich has on the community members who give?

"Joy and Hope"

There is a lot of joy among our Rock Stars. With that comes a sense of responsibility and desire to look after those in need in our community. There is a sense of engagement and a sense of seeing the greater good.

Q - What Is the best thing about Club Sandwich?

The love and commitment of our members. It is actually a tangible thing that one feels immediately when one joins and contributes.

And while it is Random Acts of Kindness Day, I want to give a shoutout and thank you to all of our members -- even though their acts of kindness are directed and focused through our organization.

Q - If you could have any sandwich in the world --what would it be?

While I have enjoyed many a varied sandwich, there is one that I hold in a special place in my heart. When I was much younger, special occasion meals would have a side of some sort of veggie like green beans, broccoli or Brussel sprouts (even cauliflower). My mom (who is no longer with us) would always make a really tasty cheese sauce to go with them. The next day the sauce would have thickened, and mom would reheat the sauce and make an open-faced sandwich with the sauce poured over a thick hand-sliced piece of challah or brioche bed. I miss it. There was a lot of love in her cooking. I would love to eat that sandwich again.

VOOMcart is privileged to have Club Sandwich to be the first organization in our 'VOOMcart Delivers' program.

We hope VOOMcart can contribute by transporting sandwiches to local missions that are walkable distances, and making local shopping trips for supplies easy to do without a car.

Check out Club Sandwich on Facebook.

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