Borscht for Ben

6:48 AM

Mom and Julie
A few short weeks ago my mom and her friend Julie had a great idea. My aunt (a good friend of Julie's also) was weighed down with the burden of her five-year old son's cancer diagnosis and the financial stress that comes along with it. They decided that the emotional challenge was enough for her to weather and set out to plan a fundraiser that would alleviate the expense of driving to and from out-of-town chemo treatments, parking there, and the lost wages for her husband, Garry. My mom and Julie's idea was to cook borscht, a traditional German cabbage soup, and sell it at the local Mennonite Brethren church in St. Catharines. The price was set at $10 per 1 L jar, a Facebook group was made, and they quietly hoped that between the two of them purchasing the ingredients and finding a bit of chopping help, that maybe they would raise a bit of money to help the family out.

Too many cans!
And then something incredible happened.

Within days of the Facebook group going live, donors starting pouring in. A relative of a farmer asked if they'd like the last of the cabbage crop in the fields, free of charge. Women from the church began asking how many cans of diced tomatoes they would need to pick up at their next Costo trip. Doorbells rang off the hook and during the 24 hours before Borscht for Ben started, pounds and pounds of carrots and onions were graciously handed over.

And then the orders starting pouring in.

Head of can-opening
Just some of the chopped vegetables

What was designed to be a small operation of a few gallons of soup saw over 100 pre-orders in the first day of advertisement. People not only wanted soup - they wanted to help. "Can I help peel?", "Do you want me to shred cabbage?", "What time should I be there to wash your dishes?": the offers wouldn't stop.

So we met on Saturday. With boxes to our eyeballs full of produce and 12 industrial size (20 L) pots on the elements we let the beef stock simmer and got to work. My wrist secretly begged me to hand over the job of manually opening cans. One lady gracefully chopped ten pounds of potatoes with one hand as her other one was hurt. My mom danced around making sure things were going smoothly, all the while bouncing my son on her hip. Throughout the day we saw more kindness. Starbucks gave us free coffee. Not just a cup each - as much as we could bear to devour. Tim Hortons doughnuts found their way into the room. Then 2 plates of Mennonite treats. Then 2 trays of gourmet cupcakes, including a gluten-free variety. Someone donated a $100 giftcard to Wendy's so that all of the kitchen help could enjoy a lunch break. And by 2pm it was time to ladle the delicious finished product into the santized jars.

Thank you Starbucks!
 You've heard of the parable of the fish and loaves... We lived it.

Stock boiling away.
 From the first 20 L pot, or so we thought, we ladled 31 perfectly full 1 L mason jars full of soup. We had calculated how many vegetables we'd need to fill 200 jars. We filled 272 and then donated the weight of another human, in veggies, to a local shelter. God multiplied everything right before our eyes. Including the support.
Sanitizing lids

Some of our youngest helpers: Emma & Abigail
My sister, Angela, and our only male
helper: my husband, Calvin
Our doors were open from 3 to 5:30pm and jars flew off the shelves. Before we began my aunt Ursula said, "A few people gave donations from out-of-town (as far as Texas) and can't pick up soup, so they'd like it to be donated to the less fortunate. I'm sure we'll have lots, but in the event that we sell out, we can always join up again and make the soup for those orders. But so everyone knows, it's 23 liters that we owe to charity."

When the crowd left and we looked at what was left (including a perfectly clean kitchen - thank you helpers!) my sister counted 21.5 L of soup leftover. And then we all shivered as a moved a purse aside to display, one last 1.5L jar
sitting on the counter. Twenty-three liters exactly were left over, as though God was saying "I will provide a customer for every jar you make, and I'll make sure the charity ones are there too. Don't you worry." We couldn't have had a better day.


Hugging Aunt Betty
Aunt Betty wants to thank everyone for their generosity. It isn't easy to find out your son has cancer. We learned it also isn't easy to understand the right way to deal with the overwhelming joy of people blessing you.

And that's what we did this weekend.

Comparing the quality of various diced tomato brands
The science geek in me lives on!


Mumford & Sons to keep us going

Oliver decides he doesn't want to start solids yet.


The finished soup

Our sales manager
Our youngest helper gets some shut eye after a hard day

Ben's older brother, Jonah, approves of the borscht!
Borscht for him: Ben.

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  1. <3 This made me cry.
    Who is surprised...anyone, anyone, Bueller ??

  2. Tears in my eyes too! What a remarkable story of community caring and sharing...and what an awesome God we serve!!! All the best to Ben and family....will be praying for you.

  3. I almost cried! Especially the part about the 23 litres of soup. What an amazing story! What your family did was so amazing. I'll be praying for all of you during this difficult time.

    PS your blog makes me so happy. :)

  4. Tears over here too. What an amazing story. I love reading testimonies of God's amazing goodness and his nearness, even when we're suffering the effects of living in a fallen world. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Did I ever mention how much I love this blog post, Amy ? Sometimes I just re-read it, just to remember all the goodness. <3


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