Nurturing community

Burgers, fries and poutine are on the menu, but conversations and friendships are key ingredients of this canteen’s popularity.

Story by Cindy Conover Dashnaw • Photos by Viktor Pivovarov

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The way to the heart of Hillsborough, New Brunswick, is through the stomachs of its 1,400 residents. And the Hillsborough Kiwanis Club has found its way there.

The secret may be the club’s nearly ubiquitous presence. Or it could be the signature poutine. (Read on for more about this dish!)

This Canadian Kiwanis club operates a canteen inside the Hillsborough Community Center, which club members built with fundraising profits. It’s also where the club holds meetings and all-you-can-eat breakfasts. For eight Saturdays in the first part of the year, village residents flock to the club’s canteen for Chef Jeff Jonah’s French toast, scrambled eggs, baked beans, hash browns, fried ham, sausage, pancakes and hot drinks.

“It’s a fundraiser, but really it’s a community event,” says Barry Russell, club president. “When people are still drinking coffee and talking two hours after they got here, we think that’s great.”

Extending its involvement in residents’ lives (and raising more funds), the club rents out the community center for weddings, concerts and other events, and sends out the canteen’s chef for catering.

“We also donate the building for youth to use 169 nights a year, for tae kwon do and such,” Russell says.

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The canteen doesn’t stay inside the center, however, and neither do its 18 Kiwanis members. In June, for instance, they sold barbecue in front of a grocery store to kick off a campaign to expand the center’s kitchen.

One of its most visible events is inside the Hillsborough Arena during the minor-league Fairview Hockey Association games.

“Years ago, we were selling just a few items from a back room at the arena,” Russell says. “Then about 10 years ago, the club asked to move to the main arena floor, build a new canteen and do it up right.”

The arena said yes, and the club became the exclusive food vendor. From October to April you’ll find club members working deep fryers and hot grills making hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, breakfast sandwiches “and our version of poutine,” Russell says.

“We deep fry our French fries. Then we put grated cheese on the bottom of the poutine boat, add the hot fries, put a liberal covering of grated cheese on top and then smother the cheese and fries with gravy. It is something good!” he says.

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This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

 

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