Refresh campaign puts KIPP Elora on national fundraising shortlist

Something’s cooking in Centre Wellington, and the aroma of fresh dough rising from two wood-burning ovens along the banks of the Grand River will surely draw a crowd county-wide.

At least that’s what the volunteers for KIPP Elora (Kitchen In The Park Project) are counting on; that and the voting support of their neighbours as they compete in the national Pepsi Refresh Campaign for $25,000.

Pepsi Canada has created an online philanthropy competition where citizens are asked to submit proposals or vote on a series of projects requesting financial support specific to community interests, such as health, culture and the environment. The voting public is eligible for ten votes a day, every day for the period of one month. The winning projects will be awarded the money for their category and national attention for their cause.

“We submitted a proposal under the community projects campaign, and we were one of more than 80 groups chosen from all the submissions across Canada,” said organizer Trish VanKatwyk. “Now we are halfway up there on the voting poll. That in itself is an achievement. It feels good. But, $25,000 won through a strong community vote to the ‘community build’ happening would feel even better.”

KIPP Elora is getting volunteers fired up, literally. In less than two years, the concept of a community kitchen, with two wood ovens and a plan for unique program in a public space has gone from conception to inception. With a target date of June 1, the plans are underway, funding or not. That is due to the support of volunteers who have found interesting ways to raise money, from sewing recycled materials into resalable clothing, to wood-oven breakfasts, metal recycling and even home concerts by world class musicians. Contractors and businesses have stepped up, too.

Support from Centre Wellington’s Parks and Recreation department has been generous, too.

Through a land-lease agreement with the municipal council for space in Bissell Park, the not-for-profit group has plans to give back to the community it calls home. 

“This is an independent project, and not one cent of tax paying dollars goes into it. This means we are fundraising continuously,” said VanKatwyk.

“The support has come fast and furious. For example, the Elora Lions, who fund only what they believe will strengthen the community, committed $5,000 to the project. Services were donated to the development of the project that would have been impossible to finance, so that now we have drawing concepts that were necessary for all the approvals, presentation material and non-profit organization status.”

VanKatwyk believes the ripple effect will encourage groups to see the value in KIPP Elora’s vision.

“We want to build a place for community-based programming, including social services, families, school groups, farmers’ markets, social enterprise opportunities, the high school’s food program, and to be the site of many community celebrations.”

The Refresh funding would go to building materials for two brick ovens, a food preparation area, plus insurance, equipment and storage.

“I think support is happening because so many people love the idea of gathering places; good, nurturing, positive gathering places where we can celebrate and support each other,” said VanKatwyk.

“As a community – and I’m not just talking about Elora, I’m talking about a gorgeous parkland nestled along two rivers that run through so much of Centre Wellington – we become stronger and more vibrant when we get together and share in community life.”

Voting is open until April 30. For more information go to