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Meals in a Jar: A Community Campaign of Collaboration and Teamwork

Submitted by Christine Whelan

Sept 30th, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 3

Justin Preston was thrilled to announce to his online friends that the entire staff and volunteers of Niagara Chapter – Native Women Inc., located in the Town of Fort Erie, received 26 Meals in a Jar, Tuesday, September 14, on behalf of Rise Against Bullying.

He expressed his gratitude. “This couldn’t have happened without great teamwork, sponsors, and those who donated gift certificates to help provide for those who help our community and by paying it forward.”

I spoke with Justin Preston recently, along with Jackie Davison, in a three-way conversation by phone. Jackie was in Woodstock where she lives and Justin was in Niagara, his home area.

Jackie began with an explanation of her connection and the start of her journey. “I do quite a bit of volunteer work. I come from a military industry. And I did a lot of work with Wounded Warriors, Canada.”

Wounded Warriors, Canada is a national mental health service provider for Canada’s Veterans, First Responders, and their families.

“Last year or this year, I wanted to do something like a golf tournament or baseball tournament for Wounded Warriors but COVID put a kibosh on that. So, I was talking to Irene at Meal in a Jar. We sat down and discussed how I could do some campaigns. Jarfunding was born out of that.”

Meal in a Jar

Jackie then introduced the history and concept of this company. “Meal in a Jar Inc. is owned by a lady named Irene Divaris. And I believe she’s had it for about eight years now. She’s a local company out of Waterloo. She really emphasizes her products on healthy, convenient choices.’

Continuing her story, “So, for me, it started with Wounded Warriors. For every gift certificate ($25) that is ordered on their link, 20% goes to Wounded Warriors.” Anyone can order a gift certificate. “The person can use that $25 gift certificate to purchase for themselves product from Meal in a Jar and try it out themselves.”

“And now, Rise Against Bullying.”

Davison has a sister in Welland who is a friend of Justin’s. “When I started telling my sister about the Wounded Warriors campaign, she said, ‘You have to meet Justin. You and Justin are like two peas in a pod.’

“We first met in a phone conversation, and,” in turning her attention to Justin, “I have to say, Justin, I fell in love. You are such a wonderful person. You’re genuine. You’re inspiring.” Then back to the interview, “So, I just knew after talking to Justin, after five minutes of talking, that I wanted to become involved and do some fundraising for Rise Against Bullying, for the amazing things that Justin does for people all over the world.”

These campaigns are fairly new, as Jackie pointed out. “I think the Wounded Warrior, Canada campaign launched in June and Rise Against Bullying launched within the last month.”

Both Jackie and Justin explained the process. Jackie described, “For example, for Rise Against Bullying, if somebody wanted to contribute to Rise Against Bullying through Meal in a Jar, they would have to click on Justin’s link, Rise Against Bullying Jarfunding. Then they would order the gift certificates. Immediately the gift certificates are emailed to them with a link that takes them to Meal in a Jar and they can order right away. If somebody just went to Meal in a Jar to order, Justin’s foundation wouldn’t get recognition.”

Davison shared her realization about the two organizations. “With Wounded Warriors and Rise Against Bullying, they actually complement each other, because they both have a huge focus on mental illness,” calling them both a safe place to talk to someone.

911 Luncheons

Davison explained further, “I wanted to find a way to help other organizations through those two campaigns. So, with Wounded Warriors, Canada, we’ve started doing 911 luncheons. We’ve done the Woodstock Firefighters, where local sponsors donate to Meal in a Jar, Meal in a Jar provides all the luncheons, and then they also give back that 20% to Wounded Warriors.

“So, then I talked with Justin and I asked him about other organizations. He came up with an amazing list.” The first one they have now provided a luncheon for is the Niagara Chapter – Native Women (NCNW).

“Some sponsors in the Niagara Region, one being Travelmasters Niagara, donated the money for 26 luncheons to the NCNW on behalf of the community, just to show them, thank you for their commitment and service in the community. And then, those sponsors provided a 20% donation to Justin’s foundation of Rise Against Bullying.”

This touches so many.

Justin expressed, “It’s like paying it forward. Just to be involved and just to see, like the person who received the Meals in a Jar, Bev Hill.” He spoke of her inspired and inspiring reaction.

He continued, “To feed people. I think this is so important. It’s back to basics. And it’s healthy. It’s organic and fresh. There’s keto. There’s dairy-free. And after this pandemic, to be able to, in-person, again be involved in my community, I realized it’s something we need to do more of.”

Jackie added, “It’s healthy, yes, and it’s convenient. Meal in a Jar will deliver either to people’s residence or their business within all of their delivery areas, which is most of Ontario.”

Minimum order? Jackie answered, “Right now, there’s no minimum purchase. But there’s a delivery fee so you’d want to make it worth the delivery for both yourself, as well as the service.” Delivery fees range from $6 – $10.

“They will deliver on certain days for certain areas. For example, all the deliveries in the Niagara Region, at this time, are on Tuesdays.”

Justin commented, “One thing I think about that is very dear to my heart is, Meals in a Jar go right to the door, so seniors who are having difficulty getting around can have it brought right to them.”

Jackie added, “It’s safe and convenient, not only for seniors but those coming home from surgeries or aren’t able to really get around and make themselves food for other reasons. If they needed a week of meals, it’s easy. There’s a large variety, something for everybody.”

Jackie admitted for herself, “I love the stuff! I’m addicted to their Veggie Showdown.”

By going to the website, you can create a menu plan and order accordingly. “Or you can order what’s called the Try Me, a four-pack or six-pack.”

Davison shifted to a focus on future intentions. “So, we want to do more for Rise Against Bullying, especially in his hometown of Fort Erie and his home region of Niagara. We’re looking at putting together some more luncheons for some of the services that are in that area, those who are helping other people.”

She continued, “So, for any sponsors, businesses, or corporations that want to help do these luncheons, the accounting office at Meal in a Jar directly invoices them and gives them their receipts. Corporations can also do luncheons for their own staff on behalf of Rise Against Bullying.”

So many people are involved in the process, creating a wonderful sense and system of teamwork.

Aside from this campaign, Justin hasn’t been able to get out there with his speakings due to the pandemic. “Letters by Justin is starting right around the corner. It’s September and I’m already starting some of my address list, updating,” referring to his annual Christmas card campaign. “I’m still selling Rise Against Bullying merchandise and the money goes back to giving care packages with handwritten cards to those in need of that lift.”

Justin has still figured out how to help others in creative ways, taking opportunities when they are presented.

About the potential of the Meal in a Jar campaign, Justin shared, “And just to know it’s not stopping there. To be able to pay it forward, to the staff, with Meals in a Jar, collecting sponsorships and donations, collaborating to meet the needs of communities such as Fort Erie, that are in real need of this kind of support.” And the magic of the heart continues.

You can connect, order, and get involved with the Rise Against Bullying campaign by going to riseagainstbullying.jarfunding.com

The Meal in a Jar website is: mealinajar.com

Photos by Justin Preston

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