As a former youth pastor and Youth with a Mission (YWAM) team member, Landry McAllister had undertaken humanitarian work in more than two dozen countries around the world. So when he found himself working as a server and shift leader at Joey Restaurant in Vancouver’s Bentall Centre, the idea of doing a food-focused mission trip seemed like a no-brainer.
He approached a half-dozen or so co-workers and assembled a “dream team” of colleagues who were eager to use their skills to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate people. “I chose Ecuador because I had some good contacts there,” Landry said. “We got six serving staff and one chef, plus myself, my wife and my 2-month old son together for a nine-day trip. We made it a food-focused trip with humanitarian objectives.”
Bringing Charity to Work
Landry’s enthusiasm and experience got Joey’s staff excited about the trip, but he had to get the restaurant’s management team on-board. Turns out, that was easy, too. Joey’s already runs a charitable soup kitchen program called Cup of Care, so enabling a staff-led initiative to extend that charity overseas made sense.
“Our regional manager loved the idea,” Landry said. “His backing is what made this happen. He got the scheduling manager on-board, and that was key.”
Joey’s not only approved the time off for the group of staff members, but also provided the space for them to hold a silent auction fundraiser. “We invited the restaurant and bar regulars and they were very generous. I didn’t ask Joey’s for money, but they gave a gift card to auction off at the event.”
Fundraising for the Trip
Landry set up a Chimp Giving Group to pool the funds, and partnered with Hope for the Nations, a charity that helps children in need around the world, to ensure the money raised went through a qualified recipient.
He encouraged his team to meet their fundraising goals with tips and strategies he sent via email. “The hardest part was the individual fundraising,” Landry said. “The fundraising event brought in a certain amount, but the pressure was on the team to raise $2,500 each. We got to our $25,000 goal in the last couple of days of fundraising.”
Making a Difference with Food Skills
On August 1, the team flew to Ecuador to undertake a roster of projects that used their food-related skill sets, including cooking for underprivileged teen girls and boys in prison, hosting a formal dinner for street workers in the red light district of Quito, setting up a ‘make your own sandwich’ market for street kids, and handing out food in remote villages in the Andes.
“We relied on doing the things we knew how to do, and the little things we did were a huge success,” Landry said. “It went from being a good idea to a being a life-changing event.”
Will they do it again? “The company was super happy about it,” Landry said, “and I could organize this again, but that’s their call. People talked about it like it came from the top down. It really added purpose to our work.”
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