Kind Surrey ‘gogos’ get chopping for food bank (photos)

SOUTH SURREY — They arrived, sometimes in pairs or in small groups but most often alone, over the course of a half hour. And with them came vegetables and meats and spices and whatever tools of the trade that weren’t already there.

It was a big day for the women, grandmothers all, who comprise Oneness Gogos. Today they’d make soup – a heck of a lot of soup, as it turns out – that they’d freeze and then personally serve one week later to deserving clients of the Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank.

By the noon start time, the kitchen at Sources Women’s Place Resource Centre, on 20th Avenue in South Surrey, was a veritable beehive of activity. Grandmas running this way and that, sharp knives slicing through fresh ingredients, massive cauldrons gently simmering on the stovetop.

Of course, there was also a constant buzz of conversation and laughter. The topics varied, as they often do when a whole whack of people get together, but today there was one subject that seemed to dominate.

"Why did they pass it?" "I can’t believe Pete Carroll would call a play like that." "Maybe it was the offensive coach."

"They should have given it to Lynch." "Yep. Beast Mode."

Seems grandmothers have come a long way, baby. Rocking and knitting? Ha! These women are as far removed from that stereotype as Katy Perry is from shyness. And dude, they know their sports, as evidenced by the post-Superbowl talk on this Monday afternoon (Feb. 2).

Oneness Gogos
Members of the Oneness Gogos slice, peel and chop their way through a soup-making session last Monday (Feb. 2) at Sources Women’s Place Resource Centre in South Surrey. (Photo: Gord Goble)

Within an hour, most of the hard work was complete, and the entire facility basked in the aroma of "Share the Kindness Soup." It was a good time for a break, and a perfect time for all to adjourn to the covered patio for a quick talk from Denise Darrell, Sources’ Director of Women, Seniors and Community Services, who discussed the key components of her program.

This seemed like an opportune moment to ask Oneness Gogos founders Penny Cuddy and Debbie Riopel the most important question of all: Namely, what the heck is a Gogo? As it turns out, "gogo" is Zulu for "grandmother."

It all started in 2006, when noted Canadian humanitarian Stephen Lewis noted a disturbing trend while travelling through Africa. Apparently, the AIDs epidemic had hit young adults the hardest, killing many of them and leaving the grandparents to raise their grandchildren. He put out a call for Canadian grandmothers to bond with their African counterparts.

And the Gogo movement was born. There are currently 240 regional Gogo groups across the country, the White Rock/South Surrey affiliate dubbed the Oneness Gogos.

And certainly, doing unto others is not a new concept for this gaggle of giving grannies, whose group now includes more than 50 members. Since their 2008 launch, they’ve sewed, served tea, staged benefit concerts and live auctions, handed out hot chocolate on the streets, delivered baskets of toiletries, collected clothing, and much more. No energy crisis here.

Now, as part of what’s known as Random Acts of Kindness Week, it’s homemade soup, which has been frozen for a week and will be delivered today (Tuesday, Feb. 10) to the Sources food bank, located on 156th Street in South Surrey. Then, just 18 days later, it’s time for a fundraising dance on Saturday, Feb. 28 featuring local band The Timewalkers at the Crescent Beach Legion. The dual-purpose affair will benefit both the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Sources food bank.

Cuddy sums it up simply: "When you’re giving, you’re getting more than when you receive."

It’s a motto we should all live by. For more information on Oneness Gogos or any of their upcoming events, contact Penny Cuddy at 604-542-4775. The group’s umbrella foundation is online at Stephenlewisfoundation.org.

Goble@shaw.ca

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