Looking back: 22 years of the Sweetheart Brunch


by Jim Macmanaman

Jim McManaman

The Sweetheart Brunch has been taking place for twenty two years and myself and Dermid O’Farrell have been involved in it right from the beginning, along with some others. The event is held the Sunday before February 14. This year, it will fall on February 9, but next year it will land right on Valentine’s Day. It used to take place in the Holy Cross church hall, where the most who could be served was from 60 to 90 people. The event used to raise a couple of hundred dollars back then. As the event outgrew the space, it was moved to the big gymnasium at Holy Cross School, which only had a small kitchen, but the Brunch was held there for three or four years. At the time, St Mike’s was being built, and it had a larger kitchen and a bigger space, so the event was moved there for the next four years. When the Municipal Centre was finished, the event was moved there and has been held there ever since.

The room at the Municipal Centre was designed to seat 200 for a dinner event, and we turn over 1,200 people in 3½ hours. The kitchen operates with 5 or 6 coffee urns, 4 or 5 slow cookers for beans, and 5 toasters, all supplied by the Knights of Columbus.

Originally, the power in the kitchen could not handle all the electrical demands and we were regularly blowing the breakers. We had to get in four generators, that were donated by First Stop Tool & Equipment Rentals Ltd, to handle it all. One year, we even set off the CO2 alarm. The Municipality has been great. We have worked with them over the years to upgrade their kitchen and everything is powered safely these days.

Although the event has kept growing to about 1,200 a year, we’re in pretty good shape, because we have a well-oiled machine now. People know their roles and someone is in charge of just about everything. Judy Littau, from Royal LePage, helps to keep us organized. We have 100 to 125 volunteers a year, lots of them students and kids.

Our corporate sponsors really help us, because we offer the food at break-even prices. It is the sponsorships that allow us to raise funds for local charities. We hope to get between $20,000 and $25,000 a year from our sponsors, with any money we make going out into the community.

We can’t really grow beyond the current facility; but 99.99% of the people who come “get it”, and are happy to line up for a good cause. This year, the Ontario Knights of Columbus have adopted the Coats for Kids campaign, the aim of which is to provide good quality coats to those who need them during the year. The goal is to supply 10,000 coats in Ontario over the next two to three years. So, we have ordered many cases of coats in various colours and sizes. They’re available now on our Facebook page which has lots of followers. We are going to set up a big coat rack so that people waiting in line can see the Coats for Kids.

There will also be a 50/50 draw, carnations in memory of Harry Pratt, and other draws for tickets by the Knights of Columbus for the Arthritis Society’s raffle. The Mayor also asked us if the Municipality could set up a table for the Expand 43 campaign, and so people will also have the chance to sign a petition if they wish.

It’s a fun event, and tiring as heck. We will be pre-prepping on the Saturday before, bringing in all the equipment, getting the kitchen all set up, setting the tables, and decorating. We will come back at 7:00 am on the Sunday for the final prep. That’s when I go through a spiel for the volunteers and all the teams, motivating them for the day ahead.

I love doing the Sweetheart Brunch, it’s a community event. We enjoy doing the cheque presentations too. This year, $17,000 will be given out in cheque presentations at the Brunch. Another $16,000 or $17,000 will go out after the event, once we see what the surplus is. We don’t wait until the next year to distribute the money.

The Knights of Columbus meet ahead of time and vote on how the funds should be awarded. What we are trying to do with this event is create greater awareness, not just of the event, but of the individual charities. Some of these are very small and not very well known, like Victory Time Farm Therapeutic Horse Riding, so they get a little exposure from the people who attend the event and on our Facebook page: KnightsofColumbusKemptville.

There is a cheque presentation, a photo, a news piece, and an opportunity to say a few words. Many of the charities receiving cheques are the same from the previous years.

We have had nothing but positive comments and hugs. But one person we are really going to miss this year is Pat Maloney. This Brunch will be in his memory.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here