Volunteers create big stir to feed thousands of Calgarians in need

More than 150 volunteers from several Calgary Marriott hotels created a big stir in the city’s downtown this week but it was all for a good cause.

“This is something that our local hotels have dreamt up,” explained Marriott Hotels of Canada president Don Cleary. “It’s called the Big Stir and it’s making soup for a number of charities in the area.”

The pop-up soup kitchen was held in partnership with La Tablee des Chefs, a Quebec-based organization that feeds people in need.

An unexpected amount of staff signed up to volunteer for the event which meant organizers could make more than the 200 litres of soup they had initially planned.

“We’ll probably end up doing about 1,000 litres of soup which will feed about just over 3,000 people,” said Chef Hussein Haji who handled logistics of the event from his downtown Marriott location.

Westin Calgary head chef Michael Batke said the gluten and dairy-free vegan minestrone soup that was being made was chosen to meet a wide variety of dietary needs and preferences. In addition to garlic, thyme, parsley and countless cans of tomatoes, hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables were also used to make the hearty concoction.

“It’s about 250 pounds of each — carrots, celery, zucchini, onion,” said Batke.

The event is one of several the hotel chain is hosting as part of an effort to increase it’s commitment to community.

“Around the globe, we’ve committed to do 15 million hours of volunteer work,” said Cleary of Marriott’s Service 360 sustainability and community commitment program. “Canada’s portion of that is almost 600,000.”

“I would say we like doing it,” added Batke. “We really love doing it, it’s a part of giving back to the community that gives to us.”

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