INCENTIVEWISE

inSITEs from SITE member Darryl Nielsen

Making "Sociable" connections via “Club Sandwich”

This week is National Volunteer Week in the US and Canada, making it an excellent time for our US-headquarted association to spotlight a star volunteer from the SITE Canada community.

Our thanks to Darryl Nielsen for sharing how he found an unconventional way to make a difference through creative community initiatives he sparked.

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“We are in a fortunate position to help. It’s unfortunate that help is required.”

In 2020 my business and those of my industry peers were greatly impacted. Armed with the misperception that this disruption would be short-lived, I took the liberty of taking a break.

Humorously calling it a semi-retirement, I became personally motivated to focus on making connections in my local community while giving back through several initiatives. One of those missions was brought to my attention from a Toronto neighbour, fellow college alumni, mentor and friend Julie Holmen, now Vice President, Member Engagement Strategies at Destinations International.  

Julie, in doing her part to help, was providing baked goods to a local grassroots initiative. I messaged Julie and stated, “I’d love to help... yet I don’t bake.”

Julie advised me that I could make sandwiches. The very next day, I made 50. The next week, my neighbours did too. The week after, their neighbours made more, and the cause continued to gain momentum: so much momentum that I organized volunteer drivers to deliver them to local missions to provide to their receptive guests — guests that suffer from food insecurity.

Thus our not-for-profit volunteer lead mission was founded. Club Sandwich (a name contributed by a volunteer, that hundreds of other volunteers voted in favour of) was born.

Although accidentally started, I organized with thoughtful intent. Our mission simply became “We sandwich the meal gap for the homeless and food insecure.” (the meal gap being the duration of time between when someone can receive hot meals from a mission). We “sandwich” that gap.

Each week the sandwich stacks grew. I had 14 coolers in my home’s foyer for storage when volunteers dropped them off on Wednesdays and my porch became full of boxes to deliver them, soon to reach 10, local missions on Thursdays.

With many weeks surpassing 1,800 sandwiches, I realized this cause required a more permanent home. I reached out to a local municipal government representative who connected me to the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto — a very welcoming church, so inclusive that they were the first globally to marry same sex couples.

They provided Club Sandwich with a more permanent home for its volunteers; volunteers that could now also make sandwiches onsite in their recently renovated, yet currently unused kitchen. A space that their congregation fundraised for years to become their “Kitchen Community” would now finally provide for the community with it.

Yet, how does one finance the consistent weekly purchase of healthy ingredients to meet the growing onsite volunteer base wishing to make sandwiches?

As a vinyl record collector, I used the warmth of analog music to relax me during this stressful time. During one of those listening sessions, Food for the Record was born.

I thought if people would donate sandwiches, perhaps they’d generously donate vinyl records, too. Soon I was issuing charitable tax receipts for donations of collections, collections varying from one album (LP) to thousands. Some records were valued at upwards of $500 by collectors. Record collectors could now also benefit from donating monetarily, receiving a charitable tax receipt and the vinyl record as a donor gift, all while benefiting the homeless and food insecure.

Local and national media took attention. Club Sandwich’s volunteer base and donations through Food for the Record grew. Once the lockdown ended, weekend-long live events were organized and brought together our volunteers, donated records, collectors and DJs, all to spin vinyl into food for the homeless and food insecure. Also, social responsibility sandwich-making activities were organized for local and international corporate and association meetings and events.

To date since June 2020, over 1,000 volunteers, donors and patrons have contributed to the making of over 200,000 sandwiches for the homeless and food insecure. If each sandwich was stacked on top of one another, they would be twice as high as Canada’s tallest mountain.

To learn more, watch a short video segment from Canada’s CTV National News originally aired April of 2021 and if you wish to donate monetarily to helping sandwich the meal gap visit here.    

Thank you to everyone who has helped spin vinyl into food and helped sandwich the meal gap for the homeless and food insecure. I’d especially like to thank Jo-Anne Wilson who took up Club Sandwich’s leadership when I returned to the incentive travel industry that I so dearly love.

Sociable!

Darryl Nielsen
Club Sandwich and Food for the Record Founder
Director of Global Accounts, GPS Destinations   

Written by

Darryl Nielsen

Darryl Nielsen

Director of Global Accounts

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Way to go Darryl!

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