Holly Kotowich and Penny Leclair, employees at Pullan Kammerloch Frohlinger Lawyers, have hosted Coffee Break® events at their workplace since 2007. “We host a Coffee Break event every year because we have staff and employers who deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Every year, it seems we learn somebody close to us has dealt with Alzheimer’s,” says Holly.
Coffee Break events can be hosted at your workplace, home, school or anywhere you can serve coffee. Holly says hosting a Coffee Break increases awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in her workplace. And better yet, it’s so easy to do!
Holly and Penny take over the office’s lunch room table on their event day, and set up coffee, dainties and donation boxes. “We ask a couple people for assistance and a lot of them help with baking. We have everything set up all day, and the event just runs itself,” says Holly.
The Alzheimer Society sets you up with a Coffee Break® kit that includes posters, coasters, a donation box, event tips, coffee cup cut-outs and more. “People here love the coffee cup cut-outs that recognize their donation,” says Holly. “We stick them up on the wall, and they love to write their names on them. Kids aren’t the only ones who like that stuff!”
For the past few years, Verna Mowat has been hosting a Coffee Break® event on her family farm in the Westman region of Manitoba. Despite wind and rain, people in the community venture down the gravel road to Verna’s farm, where a smile and a warm cup of coffee are waiting for each Coffee Break guest.
“Lots of people from the community all come out – from Cypress, Glenboro, even neighbours down the road. I think we had 35 people last year,” says Verna.
Running with the mantra that a Coffee Break event can be as big or as small as you like, Verna goes all out in getting everyone involved. She makes the most out of the Coffee Break event kit (supplied by the Alzheimer Society) by encouraging people to autograph her Coffee Break poster. Many of her guests love this gesture as it gives them an opportunity to write a personal message about who they’re supporting.
Verna’s dedication is born out of her desire to help make a difference in the fight against dementia. Her mother lived with it for 19 years and her sister is currently going through the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Verna has seen the effects first hand and is concerned about the toll it takes on families.
In addition to raising money through hosting a Coffee Break event, Verna sells home-made pottery pins at craft markets in her community. Contributors like her are integral to ensuring the Alzheimer Society is able to support those affected by dementia. We thank her sincerely for everything she has done.
When the Alzheimer Society of Ontario began the Champions for Dementia initiative in 2010, we were seeking to engage people with lived experience of dementia in advocacy activities with their Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and the Ontario government.
I remember receiving notice from the Alzheimer Society of Oxford that they had identified a perfect candidate to be their Dementia Champion – Al Burridge.
From day one, Al was a model Dementia Champion. Soon after joining, Ontario had an election. While Al was volunteering at a local fundraising and awareness event known as Coffee Break®, staff member Beth Haas remembers he had a natural ability to identify electoral candidates and talk to them about dementia. “The weather was good that day so Al and I set-up outside for a few hours during Coffee Break. Al not only recognized the candidates, even the lesser-known ones, but nabbed them to tell them about dementia and how the Alzheimer Society is advocating for improved care. He was charming, well-spoken and literate; no one could dismiss him or sidle off! ” remembers Beth.
Locally, Al was involved as a spokesperson. He met with his MPP several times, was guest speaker at the Alzheimer Society of Oxford Golf tournament, and was MC at the intergenerational Choir performance. He also spoke with media, including Heart FM, Rogers TV, and local newspapers. Whatever the task, Al assumed his role with great gravity and earnestness. He always reviewed what the present focus was, ensuring he understood the message so he could convey that to his listeners. He was 100% convincing because he truly believed the message.
He recognized that to effect change he needed to be heard at both the provincial and national level. He worked with our National office to develop an ethical framework for engaging people with dementia in Alzheimer Society work, and he had recently expressed interest in joining an advocacy group led by people living with dementia called the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group. This group is focused on the development of an Ontario Dementia Strategy and actively advocates for the engagement of people with dementia in public policy decision-making that will affect their lives.
On April 10th of this year, Al and staff member Robyn Fox met with their MPP to personally invite him to the Alzheimer Society Queen’s Park Day. The week after he was scheduled to meet with the Ontario Dementia Advisory group for the first time, but I received a call from his wife Maureen (Mo) advising that Al would be having surgery and wouldn’t be able to participate as anticipated but that he would like to be kept informed of the work underway. On April 27th Al went in for surgery, and sadly he did not recover. He passed away on May 14th.
Al was an impressive and active advocate for people with dementia for many years. He gave of his time so liberally and always gave thanks to his wife Mo, without whom he could not have organized himself as effectively.
Beth says it best – “Al was rarely without a smile or an anecdote. He was hospitable and reflected frequently on life’s little quirks finding all around him something of interest and curiosity.”
He was a wonderful example of someone living well with dementia.
Thank you Al. We miss you already.
Delia Sinclair Frigault – Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations Coordinator
Alzheimer Society of Ontario
Shelley Green – Executive Director
Robyn Fox – Volunteer Companion Coordinator
Beth Haas – Behavioural Support Worker
Alzheimer Society of Oxford
Coffee Break: a home-brewed fundraiser making an amazing impact
I’ve always liked coffee, the smell, the sound of the drip, the warmth and comfort from that first morning sip – it’s a delightful way to start the day. But coffee has taken on a much bigger meaning beyond my morning routine since I joined the Alzheimer Society of Canada six years ago. Working as the national coordinator on the Alzheimer Society Coffee Break® fundraiser, I’m continuously impressed by the energy and creativity demonstrated by Coffee Break supporters from coast to coast every September.
When the Alzheimer Society first introduced the “Coffee Break” campaign eighteen years ago, it was a grassroots endeavour with a simple concept: friends and co-workers gathering in church basements, homes and community centres over a pot of coffee to raise funds for local Alzheimer Societies. No one could have imagined that a simple cup of coffee would be the impetus for a new conversation about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Now every September, thousands of Coffee Breaks happen in communities right across Canada and raise over $1.2 million annually. Funds raised from Coffee Break stay in the community to support essential services like counselling, day programs and respite care for people affected by dementia. Programs like these make all the difference in the way families are able to live with this devastating disease.
As the number of people affected by dementia rises, so too does the need for services. Thankfully, we can call out to our Coffee Break supporters to step up the fundraising ingenuity to help meet the demand for increased services. Today you could find events that include everything from clothing drives, concerts, coffee-making challenges and bake-offs. Really, any excuse to get people together, have fun and raise money and awareness for an important cause will do. Long-time retail partners like Bulk Barn Ltd have gone the extra mile by offering matching funds on their cut-out program on World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21st.
We at the Alzheimer Society are humbled by the generosity and community spirit shown by caring individuals and business across Canada. Hats off to all our Coffee Break hosts, contributors and retail partners.