Twenty-six years ago, John Lambert responded to a call from the pulpit to do more for those in need.
John was so inspired by a sermon at his church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, that the very next weekend, he went out to ask for donations of potatoes for the House of Friendship at the Beechwood Zehrs store.
From these humble beginnings, the February Potato Blitz was born.
“That very first weekend, a young man came up to me, telling me how House of Friendship helped him during a very rough time and he was just overjoyed to donate potatoes,” said John. “That was just one story.”
That very first year, John and his wife Kathleen ended up collecting so many potatoes that they didn’t know what to do with them – they had to call in some help to deliver them to House of Friendship.
And that’s been the hallmark of the Potato Blitz – every year, hundreds of area residents pulled together to collect cash and potatoes for community members in need of food.
It became an annual passion for John and Kathleen, as well as their friends, who volunteered every year to collect potatoes at the Zehrs store. John even got into the spirit, dressing up in a potato sack, earning the moniker “King Spud.”
“One lady said if you’re silly enough to dress up, I’ll give you a bag of potatoes,” said John. “It worked.”
The Potato Blitz grew from a one-day fundraiser to include the Community Potato Lunch at St. Andrews, as well as Don Cameron Potato Night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, as well as fundraisers at local schools and businesses throughout the month of February.
One year, John’s team raised more than 7,000 pounds of potatoes at Beechwood Zehrs.
“That’s a lot of French fries! It just became bigger and bigger every year.”
John and Kathleen stayed involved for 21 years, finding volunteers to fill the shifts at Zehrs, with John donning the burlap sack to become “King Spud” every year.
“We’ve always been trying to help out people as best we can,“ said Kathleen. “You can’t save the whole world, but you can do a little bit in your own corner.”
To best serve families needing food support in our community, a more even supply of fresh food is needed throughout the year. So the time has come for Spuddy to hang up his hat!
As of February 2022, the February Potato Blitz will come to an end.
As we adjust our food programs to respond to the increasingly diverse needs of our
community, we will continue to provide food support all year long.
Even though we say goodbye to this event, the great news is that families can still get food from our Emergency Food Hampers program or in one of our neighbourhood food distribution program locations. We are grateful for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region who provides so much support for these programs.
And Don Cameron Potato Night will continue as the Kitchener Rangers carrying on Don’s legacy in support of House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hampers program.