This post was written by the former Estonian Credit Union, now Northern Birch Credit Union.
Written by Liisa Keevallik, Manager, Retail Lending at ECU
This year for ECU’s 65th anniversary year, the credit union allowed all employees to volunteer at their charity of choice. As a mother of 2 active daughters, I was fortunate to volunteer at the Jõekääru Kalev Volleyball Camp. My daughters have attended this intense volleyball training camp for the past 5 years. The significance of this camp for my family is that it has helped immensely with my daughter’s skills in volleyball and it has also kept them active in our Estonian community. The trainers are all dedicated to the development of the athletes who attend, no matter what their skill level is. Both of my daughters play REP volleyball in the Ontario Volleyball Association and thanks to volleyball camp week, they have both improved with specific skills. The athletes have intense training for a minimum of 6 hours per day, which means they need to be fed well! That’s where I come in.
The kitchen has 1 main cook who is employed by the camp and who is in charge of the food purchasing and meal planning. The rest of the workers in the kitchen are all volunteers. The athletes are provided with an enriched diet of protein, vegetables and fruits, carbohydrates (which surprising to many is very much needed for athletes) and dairy (including milk and even chocolate milk). I arrived at the kitchen (köök) at 7:15 am. Breakfast was to be served at 8:00 am. While Liisa (not me) was the main cook for the week, the day that I volunteered, Paul Lillakas stepped in to cover her day off. Liisa was there in the morning, getting things started and organized until Paul arrived. As breakfast was already taken care of by Liisa and the other volunteers, I helped with the set-up outside. From there, we started our prep of making about 200 wraps as the athletes were doing a day trip to the beach close by. It was a great opportunity for them to have beach training, but they still needed to be fed while away from the camp site.
There is so much prep to be done in a kitchen. I think I chopped onions for about 2 hours, since there were 4 different types of onions being used in the meals for the next 2 days. The fun part came when we got to make mini meatballs. By this time, most of the other meal prep was done; Paul had made delicious lasagnes for dinner. But back to the meatballs which were being used for a soup the next day. The meatballs were to be mini, so while we were hand rolling these meatballs, we had a lot of time to talk about life in Canada vs. life in Estonia. One of the other volunteers was from Estonia so it was great learning about her life there and telling her about our life here. She was amazed at how Jõekääru is run by so many volunteers and was totally impressed about the awesome experience that all campers have.
There are many different things that volunteers can do, not just work in the kitchen. However, as a volunteer I was able to suggest where I may be of best use. The credit union has sponsored this camp with money towards t-shirts (and other camps as well) for a few years. The T-Shirts and other prize donations are always enjoyed by the campers. I am thankful that I was able to work in the kitchen as it’s rewarding to see how well my daughters and all the other kids eat! No wonder they are always telling me what delicious food they got to eat and how I should make some of the special recipes at home.
My work day ended by 8:00 pm. I was able to help serve the food for dinner and then wash the dishes. Before I left I went to see how my daughters were spending their down-time. I went towards their cabins, only to find that the cabins were empty and the kids were…on the grass courts playing volleyball.
Thanks to ECU for allowing us a day to volunteer somewhere that is meaningful to us. However tired I was when I got home, I was inspired with how lucky my kids are to attend such an awesome camp!
If the opportunity arises again next year, that’s where I’ll be again.