When you think about two-thousand pounds of Christmas pudding, I bet it isn’t FINCA Canada that immediately springs to mind. But starting November 3rd, a troop of volunteers will begin a one-week assembly line of pudding making and one-third of the profits will go to support FINCA’s clients!
Starting in 1949, St. John the Evangelist has held its annual Pudding Factory week in Kitchener, Ontario. We are honoured that this year, FINCA was chosen as one of three charities to benefit from the hard work of their many volunteers!
I had a chance to interview Judy Shantz, their coordinator, to learn more about this fantastic undertaking.
The Pudding Factory is a huge endeavor Judy! I figured it out and 2,000 lbs. is the weight of two grand pianos. That’s a lot of Christmas pudding! Paint me a picture of what the set up looks like.
In the old days, they had hot plates for everything and made just 100 lbs. of pudding. Today, we take over the entire church with ovens and this year will produce 2,200 lbs. of pudding! It is a finely tuned assembly line, hence the nickname The Pudding Factory. The first weekend is mainly set up and mixing. By Monday we get to the steaming and you need to see this set up! There are stove tops in almost every room of the church with big metal pots with so much steam spewing out of them that they heat up the whole building. We have to let the fire department know when pudding week is so they can plan accordingly for when the heat sets the fire alarms off!
Tell me about some of the volunteer positions.
We have people who take the hundreds of orders, cut the parchment paper circles to line the bowls, clean fruit, strong gentlemen move all the equipment into place for us, other volunteers grease pans and supervise the steaming. Plus, there are labelers, packers and delivery drivers.
What’s the oddest volunteer position?
We have people who knock the cans of dough on the table to remove any air bubbles. Three people do this for hours!
Who has been volunteering the longest?
Many people have been part of the Factory for decades but I think Mindy Hurley may be the longest. She is 92 and is one of our steamers.
What’s the furthest one of your puddings has travelled?
A young man from our parish was serving in Afghanistan and his mom shipped him a pudding. He let her know that he shared it around the base and it made everyone feel a bit more like they were home for Christmas.
Why do you take on the monumental task of organizing this?
What I really love is that this is not only a Church undertaking, the entire community gets behind this! Many people volunteer every year even if they aren’t members of the church. And we have new volunteers each year as well. It is an amazing opportunity to get to know my neighbours because I am sitting beside people for a few hours and have lots of time to chat. Where else can you do that today?
How did you decide to include FINCA as a recipient of the money raised this year?
We have a democratic meeting where we all bring suggestions for charities to support, make their case and then we vote. One of our members made the pitch for FINCA. I hadn’t heard of you before but was very familiar with the idea of microcredit as I have lived overseas and seen firsthand that human dignity is deeply connected to a person’s financial security.
Have you been using the same recipe for these nearly 70 years?
We have! But there is some controversy around its origin story. I always assumed it was an English recipe as Christmas Pudding is such a British thing. But others contend that Mildred Robertson brought it up from the US with her. So we may never actually know! We aren’t the only ones who use this recipe; we shared it with a church in Nova Scotia and they do their own charitable Pudding Factory each year!
Thank you so much Judy and please thank all the parishioners and volunteers for their hard work. Now where can I place my order?
If you are in the Kitchener area, you can order anytime before November 5th.
We love it when groups or individuals raise funds that will benefit our clients! If you have an idea, please contact Marie-Louise Russo at email@example.com.