Stratford News

Meet our neighbours – The Space Within


The Space Within is one of the newest business ventures in Stratford’s city centre. It is the realization of a long-time dream for Karen James-Abra, a local marriage and family therapist in private practice. The Market Place business hosts a team of therapists committed to offering the community a safe and nurturing place for personal development and well-being.

Joining Karen is her husband, Bill, who was for many years, a chaplain at the Stratford General Hospital and is now a psychotherapist. Linda was associated with Optimism Place for many years and has been working at the University of Waterloo Counselling Services, both at the Stratford and Waterloo campuses. Linda is married to Brian Tree, a veteran company member of the Stratford Festival.

“The coming together of people to make this dream happen has been incredible,” says Karen. “A year ago, we were looking for property. Now we have a beautiful, newly renovated space on the second level of the old Budd’s feed store.”

Currently, the team of practitioners at the Space Within includes Stratford residents, Anne-Marie Lappano and Martine Becu. Both are certified Integral Coaches. Also part of the team is Cecilia Lara, a registered dietitian. Each of the practitioners provides confidential services where people can feel safe and welcome. They offer individual, couple and group therapy in various creative forms: meditation, energy work, counselling and body-mind awareness practices.

The vision for The Space Within includes partnering with other community resources, and there are always exciting opportunities available! Drop in to see Karen, Bill or Linda to say hello, take a tour, and chat about what these great downtown neighbours have to offer.

The Stratford Gazette, Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

To market, to market

A warm and sunny Sunday was the perfect setting for the first outdoor Slow Food Market of the season, as vendors moved from the Local Community Food Centre to Market Square in Stratford. MIKE BEITZ The Beacon Herald

A warm and sunny Sunday was the perfect setting for the first outdoor Slow Food Market of the season, as vendors moved from the Local Community Food Centre to Market Square in Stratford. MIKE BEITZ The Beacon Herald

After a long, cold winter indoors, vendors finally saw the sun Sunday as the Slow Food Market moved outside to Stratford’s Market Square.

That’s right where it belongs, said market co-ordinator Steve Stacey as shoppers browsed the fresh produce, baked goods, meats and other locally produced items on offer at the tented stalls set up behind city hall. “It’s really the heart of the community.”

This is the third year for the market at Market Square, and the fourth overall since it first began in the parking lot of Monforte Dairy on Griffith Road.

“We started on the periphery of the radar, and we’ve slowly grown and built things up,” said Stacey.

Now, there are 14 regular vendors, and four more that will set up shop later in the season (which, for some, was delayed by the weather).

And more could be added if plans to turn the area behind city hall into a community green space come to fruition.

“We’re really excited about the whole Market Square rejuvenation project,” said Stacey, “and thinking about how the Sunday market could be incorporated into the design.”

It would represent another opportunity for growth, he suggested.

“If we can make it work here in an empty asphalt parking lot, to think of what’s possible in five years’ time if this becomes a green space is really exciting,” said Stacey.

The Slow Food Market will operate downtown Sundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. until Thanksgiving.

The Beacon Herald, Monday, May 6th, 2013, by Mike Beitz.


Meet our downtown neigbours

"Rubber Duckies" is a 100 piece puzzle by SunsOut.  Available at The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario.

“Rubber Duckies” is a 100 piece puzzle by SunsOut. Available at The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario.

Shannon Campbell can be considered many things: mother of two, music lover, TV addict, avid reader, long-time radio broadcaster, Fanshawe Alum – and has recently added “Business Owner” and “Employer” to her list of titles. The enthusiastic owner of Marley and Me, located on Waterloo Street, joined Stratford’s list of great local business owners, just one year ago. Although the shop for moms and children has been around for six years, Shannon has given it new life since she took over the reins. “I started here (at Marley and Me) part time and fell in love with the business,” says Shannon.

“I could see a lot of potential and when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped and bought it.”

Since acquiring the business, Shannon has expanded Marley and Me to offer a huge selection of new items for expecting moms, new moms and babies. They are also an authorized retailer of exclusive and popular brands of baby needs.

Before she started working at Marley and Me in downtown Stratford, Shannon graduated from Fanshawe College with a Marketing Certificate and a Radio Broadcasting Diploma which led to a 16 year career in the radio broadcasting industry .

When  Shannon isn’t busy working, parenting, or pursuing one of her many hobbies, she can be found volunteering her time as a Community Connector for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Be sure to drop into Marley and Me and say hello to Shannon – yet another great downtown neighbour!

from the Stratford Gazette, April 25, 2013.

How to keep small towns from disappearing

Stratford’s politicians and business community came together to fight for a satellite campus of the University of Waterloo, with its cutting-edge specializations in digital media and global business.

Stratford’s politicians and business community came together to fight for a satellite campus of the University of Waterloo, with its cutting-edge specializations in digital media and global business.

Last week, while taking a new route through a small town, I was excited to spot a factory I hadn’t seen before. I never used to notice factories, until they started becoming an endangered species. But as I drove by this plant’s locked gate and empty parking lot, I realized that — like most of the other factories in this central Ontario town — it had closed.

Across Canada, rural communities are struggling to survive. Farm communities are losing their retail base to big-box stores an hour away. Former resource boomtowns are struggling to survive without their shuttered mines and rusted mills. Towns in the heartland of Ontario and Quebec are wondering what to do with once-sophisticated manufacturing plants that nobody wants. And small towns everywhere struggle to keep their best and brightest youth from drifting to the big cities for brighter lights and better jobs.

“We’re on the verge of becoming a city-state economy,” says Kenneth Coates, a public-policy professor at the University of Saskatchewan. “We could have seven, eight or nine vibrant urban centres with strong economies, attracting most of the activity and investment. Apart from major resource towns such as Fort McMurray, the rest will be poor — just providing raw materials or recreation for city dwellers. This is the challenge for small towns trying to keep their heads above water.”

Does it have to be this way? Coates, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, doesn’t think so. He says new technology trends could create a revolution in rural and small-city entrepreneurship – but this won’t come easy. To withstand powerful economic forces that are compressing economic growth into leading mega-cities around the globe, he says business and political leaders in Canada’s smaller communities will have to fight hard for their communities to prosper.

Rick Spence, The Financial Post, April 15, 2013

Surviving on $5 a day


How much money does it take to live a healthy, dignified life?

Do the math. It’s probably more than $5 a day.

But that’s the amount the Local Community Food Centre is encouraging people to budget for food as part of the three-day Do the Math challenge next month, aimed at raising awareness of the shortfall in social assistance funding in the province.

“The Do the Math challenge will help people to understand what it is like to live on an extremely limited food budget,” said Elizabeth Anderson, the food centre’s community action co-ordinator, during a presentation to city council this week.

She pointed out that $5 is what an Ontario Works recipient typically has left over to buy food after paying rent and other expenses.

Starting Nov. 19, participants in the challenge will be encouraged to spend just that amount on food for three days, or to pick up three-day food hamper from the House of Blessing (and make a donation of at least $20 to replenish the supplies).

They can’t accept free food or drinks, and can’t use food from their gardens to supplement their diet, but are allowed up to five standard pantry ingredients like flour, oil, coffee or salt.

It won’t be an easy three days, suggested Anderson, but it will likely open some eyes about the impact poverty has on the a person’s physical and mental health.

“The challenge will teach people things that can’t be understood by simply sitting down and thinking through it logically,” she said, “for example, the impact it has on your body, your mind, your ability to concentrate and your temperament. It will make you think twice about having guests over. It will make you consider difficult choices people are forced to make, like taking the bus over walking, or purchasing a new pair of winter boots.”

Participants will be asked to share their experiences online through blog posts, videos and photos, and will be invited to a town hall meeting at the Local Community Food Centre Nov. 22 to share a meal and share their experiences.


The centre will also celebrate its official launch with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that same day.


“I would like to build this into a community experience,” said Anderson, noting that more than 30 people, including local medical officer of health Dr. Miriam Klassen, United Way executive director Ryan Erb and Coun. Kerry McManus, have already signed on to the challenge.

In Stratford, there are currently some 685 adults and 422 children receiving Ontario Works assistance.

By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald, Saturday, October 27, 2012

York kiosk hours cut back

York Street tourist kiosk hours cut back

Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff, May 2, 2013

The Stratford Tourism Alliance is cutting back the hours at its York Street visitors kiosk for the summer to help balance its books.

The kiosk will be open from July 1 to September 29 – two months shorter than in previous years, when it was opened in June and closed after Thanksgiving.

Alliance executive director Eugene Zakreski says the non-profit corporation was forced to make the change due to a one-time loss of approximately $275,000 in transitional funding from the province that took the place of  destination marketing fees – an additional three per cent tax charged on room rates by accommodators in the city.

The practice was recently reviewed and upheld by the federal Competition Bureau, and Zakreski says the alliance’s hospitality members will reintroduce the fee in 2014.

The kiosk change also reflects what Zakreski says has been a steady decline in visits; he estimates about 1,000 fewer people used the services at the kiosk over each of the last three years.

At the same time, hits to the tourism alliance’s website and mobile site have steadily been increasing, with overall site visits reaching 600,000 last year alone.

Zakreski says the alliance recently revamped its mobile site so that it is more user friendly, while still ensuring people can access information such as the restaurant guide and special event listings they would find on the traditional site or at the kiosk.

With more people relying on mobile sites, Zakreski says  the alliance will be reviewing its online strategy, particularly with regards to social media, for 2014.

“We believe that mobile technology and smartphones will take the lead on all travel planning in the future,” he says, noting statistics show 57 per cent of people already visit a site on their phone or tablet first when beginning their travel destination search.

“We have to adjust in terms of our web strategy,” he adds.

The alliance has also found more people are attending the alliance’s Downie Street office, and will be extending its hours of operation by one hour this tourist season in response, as well as have additional staff on hand to assist visitors.

Zakreski says the alliance approached its members about making the changes at the kiosk and only heard  concern about the loss of the washrooms facilities for the two months. As a result, he says the city has agreed to keep open the bathrooms from May to the end of October.

The alliance will review visitor comments and feedback during the summer before determining its long-term plans for the kiosk.

On the trail of something sweet

Cathy Rehberg, marketing manager for Stratford Tourism Alliance, welcomes guests to the launch of the Savour Stratford Maple Trail held at Canadian Grub to Go on Downie St. Thursday. (SCOTT WISHART, The Beacon Herald)

Cathy Rehberg, marketing manager for Stratford Tourism Alliance, welcomes guests to the launch of the Savour Stratford Maple Trail held at Canadian Grub to Go on Downie St. Thursday. (SCOTT WISHART, The Beacon Herald)


Caution: take this trail and you might get stuck on it.

It’s the Savour Stratford Maple Trail—a self-guided tour of local sweet and savoury treats much like the chocolate trail or bacon and ale trail.

“Maple syrup is the most highly anticipated crop of the season, it signals spring for us,” said Cathy Rehberg, Stratford Tourism Alliance marketing manager. “This way you can enjoy it all year round.”

Producer Dennis Aarts has been enjoying a long maple syrup season this year. Below seasonal temperatures may be to thank because it discourages the trees from budding.

“It’s been really good but mainly light (syrup),” said Aarts, co-owner McCully’s Hill Farm.

The farm is one of 12 stops on the trail that take maple to a new level, well beyond pancakes. The farm uses maple syrup in sausages, pies and butter tarts to name a few uses.

Grub to Go chef and owner Robert Rose focuses on using Canadian ingredients and maple is an obvious choice. One of the tasty choices is a smoked maple bacon BLT sandwich. He uses local syrup from just outside of Shakespeare.

The chocolate trail was started in 2010 and has broad appeal, Rehberg said. About 70% of participants on the trail are tourists.

“Shopping is important when people are travelling. We want to give people something they enjoy and then build a shopping experience around that, authentic to our community,” Rehberg said.

Part of the idea is to create an experience so that visitors associate chocolate or maple with Stratford and Perth County.

Aarts suggested it’s tricky to compete with a community like Elmira, which is known for its maple syrup festival. However, he noted maple syrup, like wine, seems to vary in flavour by region. The flavour of the syrup in Perth County seems to last on the tongue, he said.

“There’s some good producers around here,” he said.

And there are several businesses taking advantage of those producers. The maple experiences on the trail come both savoury and sweet from tea to milkshakes to maple balsamic and “Canadian Maple Manhattans.”

The cost of the trail is $25 and includes samples at six venues of your choice.

For more information go to

By Laura Cudworth, Stratford Beacon Herald, Friday, April 12, 2013


Stratford House of Blessing – People helping people for 30 years

Stratford House of Blessing is celebrating 30 years of helping the people of Stratford and area. Although poverty is not obvious when you visit Stratford, each year 8% of our population visits the Stratford House of Blessing for food, clothing and furniture, free of charge.

Not everyone who comes is unemployed. Stratford House of Blessing is seeing a rise in the working poor; these are people who have such a low income they simply do not have the money to make ends meet.

Non-profits always need a dedicated team of volunteers to keep things running smoothly, and this is certainly true for House of Blessing. Volunteer co-ordinator Rita enjoys working with volunteers and working with them to determine which areas they are most suited to.

Volunteers who prefer physical work usually help in the areas of furniture and donation pick ups, unloading trucks, cleaning and maintenance. Others favour sorting, organizing, re-stocking shelves and tidying up the clothing rooms. Volunteers who like to work directly with people serve in the food bank or help out at events like Empty Bowls and the Silent Auction.

House of Blessing also runs special programs that address some of the causes of poverty and food insecurity. Home with a Heart is a hands-on education program that teaches participants homemaking and life skills. Participants learn skills in budgeting, organization, grocery shopping and parenting.

The cooking on a Budget program teaches students how to cook healthy foods safely and affordably. Our instructor introduces participants to food planning, preparation, and clean-up. If you have experience teaching, classroom volunteering might be the area for you!

Are you too busy to commit all year? There are still lots of opportunities at Stratford House of Blessing. Help with Off to School Smiling by organizing backpacks with school supplies and new outfits.

Participate in the Christmas Toy Program, where volunteers transform the warehouse into a Christmas toy wonderland. Run a Baby Bottle Campaign to raise for our Family Resources program, which includes layettes for new babies, baby clothes and furnishings, free pregnancy testing, and visits from a health nurse. Or you can host a food drive at your workplace or school; we are always seeking food donations!

For more information about how you can help touch the lives of those in need, please contact Stratford House of Blessing at 519-273-3433 or visit

Creating access to healthy food with Local Community Food Centre

The Local Community Food Centre is a place where people come together to celebrate food. As an organization, we strive to create access to healthy food in a way that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality.

Join us May 1 for our upcoming volunteer info session and find out how you can become involved in what we do! Oh, what do we do?

We grow food and are gentle on earth. We cook to create sensational flavours and aromas. We set tables, brew coffee, share stories, wipe counters and do dishes. We discuss big topics and challenge each other, share resources and create friendships. We advocate for ourselves and each other, stretch our bodies and minds, spend time in the sun, play in the garden and have fun!

And what got us to where we are today? A great deal of time, dedication, and hard work. None of it would have been possible without our volunteers so a very heartfelt thank you to all of you. You are making a difference!

We will be starting new programs in the spring and will have many great opportunities to become involved. We serve three community meals a week, including a dinner on Monday night. Serving eighty to one hundred people a week is a tall order so we need a lot of help.

We run a number of programs in the greenhouse, gardens, and kitchen that could use a few hands. If you like to work with people, this would be a great opportunity for you.

The Storehouse is a good distribution centre that provides fresh and healthy product to emergency food programs. If you want to help support your local food banks, community meals and school nutrition programs, this would be a great way to do it.

If you are passionate about social justice, you can become involved in EPIC – Empowering People in Communities. We work on many issues including poverty, stigma, media, environment and food quality.

If you want to know more, join us on Wednesday, May 1 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. for our info session. All are welcome!

Get to know The Local Community Food Centre

The CFC Concept


A Community Food Centre is a welcoming space where people come together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. CFCs provide emergency access to high-quality food in a dignified setting that doesn’t compromise their self-worth. People learn cooking and gardening skills there, and kids get their hands dirty in the garden and kitchen in ways that expand their tastebuds and help them to make healthier food choices. Community members find their voices on the issues that matter to them, and people find friends and support. CFCs offer multifaceted, integrated and responsive programming in a shared space where food builds health, hope, skills and community.

CFCs go beyond traditional charitable giving approaches, which answer an immediate need but often do nothing to address underlying issues of chronic hunger, poverty and poor health. They do that by offering multifaceted, integrated and responsive programming in a shared space where people can grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. Participants can learn not only how to grow food, but how to prepare and cook wholesome food as well. The garden & kitchen skills that are learned foster confidence, and the camaraderie shared goes a long way to overcome feelings of social isolation that can sometimes be a factor in situations of poverty and poor health.

The Local is a partner site of Community Food Centres Canada, a national organization that’s driving the development of CFCs across the country. Along with The Table Community Food Centre in Perth and Toronto’s The Stop Community Food Centre, The Local is helping to increase access for healthy food to low-income Canadians while proving that food can be a transformative force in our communities.

For more on Community Food Centres Canada and the campaign to build Community Food Centres across the country, visit

Why Stratford?


Savour Stratford FestivalStratford, Ontario, is truly a food lovin’ city, where farmers markets, restaurants, culinary festivals, community gardens, and artisans all thrive.

Stratford is also a centre for food education.

Many of the brightest lights cooking in Canada’s most successful restaurants today learned their chops at the Stratford Chefs School.

The high school Culinary Arts class taught by Paul Finkelstein at the ‘alternative cafeteria’ known as the Screaming Avocado Café serves as a model for educators around the world who want to connect kids with the food they eat.

Yet in the midst of Stratford’s enviable bounty of food, learning, and community, there lies a disturbing paradox:

People in our city, including children, still go to bed hungry.

Community drop-in meals have line-ups out onto the street, and food banks find it difficult to keep up with an ever-growing demand. The ever-increasing cost of food further contributes to this problem, as nearly 8 percent of Perth County residents have been found to be “food insecure” (a term that basically means they cannot afford to put the kind of good food on their tables they would like to).

The Local Community Food Centre’s vision is to build access and skills so that everyone in our community can enjoy nutritious, quality food to lead a healthy life!

The fact is: Every community should have a Community Food Centre!

Division of UWPH


Community Dinner (free or by donation if you wish)

Drop in anytime from 5:15-6:30


Garden/Greenhouse (free)

Get your hands dirty!





Community Kitchen (free)

Educational cooking session


sign up weekly 519-508-3663


60+ Midweek Lunch Out (free or by donation if you wish)

Lunch followed by a light program begins at 11:30


Yoga Breakfast (free or by donation if you wish)

Wellness session at 8:00am

Breakfast served at 8:30am


Social Justice Club (free)

Justice and equality for all


First Thursday of every month


Get Involved

The success of The Local Community Food Centre depends on our team of remarkable volunteers and talented staff!

Our Drop-in Meals, Community Gardens/Greenhouse, and Food Distribution Centre cannot operate without the help of community members committed to joining us in the fight for good food for all!

If you are such a person and would like to volunteer for these or any other our programs, please get in touch with our volunteer coordinator at:

The Local Community Food Centre

612 Erie St., Stratford

(519) 508-3663