Cilantro & Chive and ECHO Lacombe Association fill fridges for the festive season

(Left to Right) ECHO Lacombe Association President Jared Reich, Lacombe & District FCSS Executive Director Susan MacDonald, FCSS Special Projects and Events Coordinator Jan Pocock, Buddy the Elf (Guy Lapointe), and Cilantro & Chive owners Kim and Rieley Kay stand with two matching cheques for $2,500 for FCSS' Fill a Fridge program Monday morning at the Lacombe Memorial Centre. The monies are an advance on Cilantro and Chive's Burger of the Month campaign. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Cilantro & Chive and the ECHO Lacombe Association have gotten into the spirit of giving by making sure all are able to put food on their tables this Christmas season.

On Monday morning, Cilantro & Chive presented Lacombe Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) with an advanced donation from their December Burger of the Month sales in the form of $2,500, matched by ECHO Lacombe for a total of $5,000, which will go towards the Fill a Fridge program.

Lacombe FCSS Special Projects and Volunteer Coordinator Jan Pocock says the program is an important one for the community, given the state of the economy, as well as growth, which has led to increased need for food security.

“The Fill a Fridge program is a very important program that we have here in Lacombe. The most important part about it is allows families and individuals the power of choice; they can go and choose what they want to feed themselves and their family this Christmas season,” she said. “So many of our neighbours are experiencing hard times and during the Christmas season, if we can give them a little bit of breathing room, a little bit of help to have some food security, what better gift is there during the Christmas season.”

Last year was one of their largest years, with $50,400 given out in grocery certificates to 221 households, providing food for 326 adults and 293 children. The support from Cilantro & Chive and ECHO Lacombe, she says, will help further their ability to meet food security needs, which she says could increase this year.

Normally, donations are given out following the end of the Burger of the Month campaign. However, with certificates to be doled out in just a couple of weeks, Cilantro & Chive and ECHO Lacombe decided to help out earlier.

“They need the funds now, so we tried to get them (to FCSS) ahead of time so they can put them to good use in our community,” said Cilantro & Chive owner Rieley Kay. “We’re cautiously optimistic – we really hope we can (raise that much), but if not, it’s an investment in our community and we know it will be well used.”

It’s the 35th Burger of the Month campaign Cilantro & Chive has done, since it began over two years ago. In that time they’ve raised over $60,000 for local charities, with $2 from each burger going towards a charity of the guest chef’s choosing. Charities have ranged from school programs to Big Brothers Big Sisters and a number of health related organizations.

“It means a lot to us. When we initially started the Burger of the Month it was all about creating the burgers and having that excitement, but it’s really morphed into getting to know community organizations and people behind the scenes, and know they’re there supporting our communities is huge,” said Kay.

His wife, Kim Kay, agreed, adding they’ve been able to discover organizations they otherwise wouldn’t have ever known existed.

“We are really just the vehicle,” she said. “It’s supporting community people that are picking causes, organizations, things  that are near and dear to them and we’re just allowing them and helping them give back. We’re meeting people, groups, organizations we never thought we would – hearing their story and how those funds are making an impact in our community, it  hits home for us every time.”

This month, the impact from Burger of the Month sales will be a little more thanks to ECHO Lacombe agreeing to match their contribution, meaning $4 from every burgr sold will go towards the Fill a Fridge program. Any additional monies raised over and above the donation already made will also be donated at the end of the month.

December’s Burger of the Month, meanwhile – the “SANNA!” – definitely has festive flair, and with Buddy the Elf (Guy Lapointe) as the guest chef, it delivers on most of the elves’ four food groups (candy canes, candy, candy corn and syrup) with a turkey burger, maple bacon, house-made stuffing, maple sweet potato discs, two strips of bacon, sage aioli, and cranberry sauce on a brioche bun, garnished with a candy cane.

Cilantro & Chive will also make a presentation for November’s Burger of the Month in Sylvan Lake Dec. 12.

Buddy the Elf (Guy Lapointe) is pictured with the “SANNA!” Burger. A total of $4, thanks to ECHO Lacombe agreeing to match donations, from every burger sold will go towards Lacombe FCSS’s Fill a Fridge program. Photo supplied