THE BLOG

Calgary's Big Stir Against Domestic Violence

02/22/2013 01:24 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Their shopping list read like a Convention Center catering department order: 51 pounds of chicken, 161 cloves of garlic, 69 pounds of onion, 127 liters of chicken stock, 77 pounds of carrots, 94 pounds of diced tomatoes and more.

But, a deeper purpose was revealed through their checklist of other critically required ingredients: 100 volunteers, 14 professional chefs, 350 aprons, 200 cutting boards, 100 chopping knives, 25 gas burners and 1 paramedic. The ambitious list made it clear: this small but mighty army of Calgary Soup Sisters was about to create a Big Stir and they were taking aim at domestic violence in their community.

They came together on a cold winter evening in Calgary just before the start of 2013. Two-hundred-and-fifty participants and more than 100 volunteers, chefs, performers and media personnel gathered at the Calgary Farmer's Market for a hands-on, soup-making blitz, the largest event of its kind ever held in Canada.

This force of big-hearted men and women included teams from an A-list of Calgary corporations like Nexen, Imperial Oil, Triovest and KPMG to name just a few. Together, at 25 cooking stations, they sliced, sautéed and simmered hundreds of pounds of donated fresh ingredients into a hearty broth. Thirty-two Band-aids later, the effort culminated in 1,584 servings of fresh, nutritious hot soup for delivery to Calgary emergency shelters for women and children who have experienced domestic violence -- quite a stir, indeed.

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The Big Stir was the brainchild of Sharon Hapton whose growing social enterprise, Soup Sisters, oversees grassroots, volunteer soup-making operations in 13 cities across Canada that currently produce thousands of liters of soup monthly for local shelters.

Soup Sisters tapped into the hearts and minds of communities across the country and has created, along with a bottomless gusher of soup, a wellspring of awareness and support for victims of domestic abuse. The Big Stir took the Soup Sisters' grassroots concept to a mass-production level by engaging corporate teams, community philanthropists, volunteers and local media in a one-shot, cooperative effort to illuminate a growing, insidious societal epidemic.

The outpouring of corporate donations for kitchen supplies, cooking tools and equipment (for example, all 100 cooking knives were donated by CUTCO) and nearly all of the soup ingredients required for the event revealed the relevance and timeliness of The Big Stir's message for the Calgary community. The palpable energy and positive, do-good spirit among the individuals and corporate teams who participated in the event spoke volumes about the symbiotic alignment between The Big Stir and current corporate community investment values.

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The din of knives chopping and the buzz of purposeful collaboration vibrated around the great hall of the Farmer's Market in what could only be described as a resounding group condemnation of the rising tide of violence against women in their community. The Big Stir had achieved what its name foretold and, in the process, produced nourishing, nutritious comfort for the residents at eight Calgary shelters and youth-at-risk facilities. The template has been set. Expect the Soup Sisters juggernaut to create a Big Stir in many more cities across Canada next year. Unfortunately, violence against women knows no provincial bounds.