Guest Post: Why I’m volunteering at HoHoTO

Omar Khafagy originally published the post below on his Facebook page about when he volunteered at a foodbank as a teenager. He gave us permission to reprint his post here.

When I was in high school, I volunteered at a food bank. I remember the warehouse as enormous and cold. I was 15, and it was winter. The sun was so high in the sky that its heatless presence was taunting. I remember standing outside, leaning over the handle of a dolly and panting plumes of vapour, wishing that the sun would dip down for a bit.

At the time, I was a chubby 15-year-old. I had little to no muscle at all, and the entire experience was the most physically gruelling I’d ever known.

I pushed and pulled trolleys of boxes loaded with cans of beans; running from one end of the warehouse to the other whenever I was required, and generally struggled to keep up with the adults who were there. I had to keep up with them, you see, because I was humbled by them. They were not there because they were volunteers.

They were there as employees and benefactors of the very food they helped collect and sort. These were not the most educated folks. They weren’t well-read, and many weren’t particularly well-watched either. TV wasn’t a huge part of their lives. Survival was.

One man in particular stands out in my memory. He was a tall man with oily fingernails, patchy stubble, a handful of teeth and a thick mess of hair that stuck out of an old red cap he wore backward.

He told dirty jokes. Yet each time he swore, he would stumble over himself apologizing for his language. Then, as though in defence of himself, he would say, “But you’re practically grown up. I mean, you’re what, 15? 16? Pretty sure you’ve heard of a p—- before. If ya haven’t, ya definitely think about ’em.”

Cold as it was, my face and ears were kept warm.

The man wanted to include me and make me feel welcome. The entire staff did, displaying patience when I struggled to complete some simple physical task, and displaying kindness by sharing with me what little food they had. I couldn’t even turn them down. They insisted over and over again.

They knew I was a volunteer, knew that I was a private school student, and yet showed more kindness to me than many of the wealthiest people I have ever known.

I have long harboured a desire to participate again in some fundraising effort to help feed the hungry. Every year I think about it, and each year I do nothing. This year promised to be much of the same, except that this time something happened.

I opened an email I would have ordinarily thrown away.

In that email was an ad for HoHoTO 2013, a fundraising event in support of The Daily Bread Food Bank. The last time I stumbled accidentally onto something I’d have normally ignored, I wound up a student at Bitmaker Labs alongside some of the most gifted and inspirational people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Good things happen when I don’t think too hard before I act.

So I didn’t overthink this one. I emailed Gina, the woman in charge of HoHoTO’s volunteers, and within 24 hours got myself a ticket for the event and a 2 hour slot between 9 and 11pm on Thursday December 19th.

If you’re reading this, and you’re anywhere near Toronto… I want to see you there. It’s going to be a great event with drinks, food, and great people from the startup, tech, social media and design community.

But more importantly, it’s going to help some of the city’s hungriest feel a little fuller, a little warmer, this holiday season.

Nearly 800,000 people relied on a food bank in 2012. That’s enough people to pack the Air Canada Centre forty times over. A third of those people were children. For those doing the math, that’s around 13 ACCs filled with kids.

100% of the proceeds go directly to feeding these folks, and you get to have a great time while doing it.

So if you can make it, great! If you can’t, but want to donate anyway, click below and purchase a ticket for early-bird admission. And if you’re not going to be in town or simply can’t afford to, please share this with whoever you can.

With your help we can make Toronto a little less hungry this holiday season.

You can join Omar and volunteer at this year’s HoHoTO. Email Gina for more details. 

OK, I’m coming to HoHoTO. Now what do I wear?

So far, we’ve told you who comes to HoHoTO and what we do at HoHoTO, but we’ve left out one of the most important questions about HoHoTO: What do I wear?

The answer is surprisingly simple: You can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.

In general, the dress code is casual, but some people dress up in holiday gear or suit jackets. Wear what makes you feel best: something you can feel confident in, but can also dance in.

This is a holiday party, so feel free to add some holiday flourish to your outfit. Maybe a Santa hat, or red and green. It’s totally up to you.

Last year, I wore my favourite pair of blue jeans, which meant I didn’t have to worry about getting cold in a skirt on my way home (always a plus for someone who’s always cold). This year, I might dress it up a bit by adding a black blazer to my blue jeans, or maybe add a Santa hat to really complete my look.

If you’re coming to HoHoTO and know what you’re wearing, tell us in the comments below.

 

Hack memes for a good cause. It’s easy.

 

This is a guest post from Elena Yunusov, a past organizer of HoHoTO, who wrote this post and originally published it on her blog. It is reprinted here with her permission, and her request that we all make our own memes. My contribution is the image at the top of this post. You are welcome to create your meme and share them with us in  the comments, or on Twitter @HoHoTO.

Yes you can. Yes you can have fun and help the world all at once.

Every year for the last five years, I played for the team that organized HoHoTO, a holiday fundraiser for Toronto’s Daily Bread. We started it in 2008 when the recession hit, as a way to bring the tech/startup community together during tough times, and as a way to give back.

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So yeah. Guess what, the need for HoHoTO and giving back has never been more acute than it is today. 1.6 million Canadians used a food bank last year, and that’s 23% higher than in 2008, when the economy collapsed.

Wait. Let me repeat that.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 11.34.57 AM

Mark December 19th on your calendars, people, and come to HoHoTO.

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HoHoTO is a fantastic party fundraiser for Toronto’s Daily Bread, where bubbles float in the air, people dance like they just don’t care, buy beer for strangers, and make new friends – helping the world suck a little less.

Lex's first meme caption all for #HoHoTO
Lex’s first meme caption all for #HoHoTO

You dance, hungry people eat. Tag your cat tweets, pics and memes with #hohoto, cause why not. The more people find out about the party, the better! Here’s that perfect moment of joy when you realize you actually have a reason to Instagram your cats and your food, cause every time you tag your posts with #hohoto, you help spread the word that hungry people need to eat and deserve our help. Ride the fun wave, and help others.

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It feels good to do good. All the cool kids do it! Well, you get the idea. Now, why not hack a meme! Tag it with #hohoto. It’s so fun, I just might make a Tumblr next.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 11.52.01 AM

Finding and creating memes to caption is fun, and http://www.quickmeme.com/caption is as good place to start as any. Pls remember to tag your meme with #hohoto! Caption those cats. Cause cats are the future!

Why do we still do HoHoTO, after all these years? This is why.

Meme captioned by @gisuck

 

Nervous about coming to HoHoTO? Here’s what you can expect

hohoto
Andrew Louis/Flickr

I remember the first time I wanted to go to HoHoTO.

It was 2009 — the second year of the event — I was reading so much about this cool party coming up on Twitter. I was relatively new to Twitter, having just joined the microblogging site earlier that year.

I kept wavering back and forth about going. I knew people who were going. Some of the people who were going I didn’t know, but followed on Twitter. Did I belong at this event? I wasn’t so sure.

I didn’t go that year. In fact, it took me three more years before I finally stepped outside of my comfort zone and made my first appearance at a HoHoTo event. And I didn’t know why it took me three years to finally do it — I had so much fun.

Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect:

  • Catch up with old friends and meet some new ones: HoHoTO is referred to as “the party that Twitter” built, and it very much is that. I had a great time last year finally meeting some people IRL that up until then I had only conversed with on Twitter.
  • Make more of a difference: You can make a difference by bringing canned food with you to donate to Daily Bread. The more you donate, the more we can help.
  • Have a chance to win some cool stuff: Of course, we also raise money raffling off some awesome prizes. You can even buy raffle tickets online this year, making it even easier for you to come to the party and try to win something great. Past raffle prizes include smartphones, spa gift certificates and so much more. Stay tuned for more details on this year’s raffle.

So if you’re thinking about attending HoHoTO, but not quite sure, buy your ticket and come. Trust me, it’s the best party you’ve never been to.

Who belongs at HoHoTO? You do!

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Alexa Clark/Flickr

 When HoHoTO began in 2008, its first attendees were mainly from the technology and startup communities.

Being “the party that Twitter built,” it just made sense. After all, Twitter at that point was only a couple of years old, and early adopters to the microblogging site were mainly focused in those communities.

But as HoHoTO has grown over the years, so has its attendee base. Nowadays, you’re still likely to see the folks from the startup and technology worlds, but you’re also likely to see people from communications, the social media sphere, and people just out to do a good deed and raise some money for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Since 2008, HoHoTO has raised more than $285,000 for Daily Bread. With your help, this year we can push that number to more than $300,000, and help some families in need this holiday season.

Not sure if you fit into the HoHoTO bucket? Don’t be shy, come out anyway! To ensure you have a great time, grab a bunch of your friends and buy a fistful of tickets. Coming with an entourage is definitely a way to make sure people you know are there.

But being that this is a social event, the other great way to scope out the guest list is to check out the #HoHoTO hashtag on Twitter and chat with other people who are coming (who you may not even know yet)!

We’ll see you on December 19!