“SOUPer Wednesday” feeds public, ACS’ accessible vehicle fund



By Ron Giofu


Thirteen participants from Amherstburg, LaSalle, McGregor and Harrow went head-to-head last Wednesday to see who had the best soup.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held its fourth annual “SOUPer” Wednesday fundraiser at the Columbus Community Hall with Seasons Amherstburg and their mushroom chowder emerging as this year’s winner.

A total of 184 people attended this year’s “SOUPer Wednesday” with over $4,000 raised. The non-profit agency says that is a record amount.

That dollar figure also includes ACS’ $1,370 share from the 50/50 draw.

“People have been very enthusiastic,” said ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. “The weather has been co-operated. It’s great soup-eating weather. The restaurants have been fantastic once again.”

DiBartolomeo said people get excited for the event every year.

“Every year, the restaurants provide their wonderful soups,” she said. “Our guests are just anxious to try it. I think it’s almost becoming a bit of a tradition for some. We saw lots of faces there who have been at every ‘SOUPer Wednesday’ since its inception and that really says something.”

Seasons Amherstburg won the fourth annual “SOUP-er Wednesday” fundraising event held last Wednesday at the Columbus Community Hall. It was presented by Amherstburg Community Services (ACS). From left: Beau Velduis and Heather Vandenham from Seasons Amherstburg and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Word-of-mouth is spreading, she added, and new people are also starting to come to the event. It is also “a great social event” because people get to talk, re-connect and visit with one another.

“This year is special because we are putting out the call for our new accessible vehicle,” said DiBartolomeo.

ACS had to pull one of its accessible buses off the road and is actively fundraising and seeking donations for a new one.

Other participants and their soups included Armando’s Amherstburg and their chicken tortilla soup, the Artisan Grill and their lobster bisque, the Beacon Ale House and their potato dill soup, the Dalhousie Bistro and their roasted winter vegetable,, Gilligan’s Fire Grill in Amherstburg and their cheeseburger soup, the Knights of Columbus and their chicken vegetable, Dock 21 and their potato bacon cabbage, LA Town Grill and their roasted red pepper, Maria’s and their beefy tomato macaroni, Smashed Apple Catering and Takeout with their curry chicken, Speck’s and their cabbage roll soup and the 19th Hole at Wildwood with their turkey dumpling soup.

David Languedoc from The Dalhousie Bistro dishes out some of his roasted winter vegetable soup during “SOUPer Wednesday.”

ACS’ Meals on Wheels kitchen also offered their Italian ravioli soup but that wasn’t an official entry and could not be voted on.

“Every year, this event gets bigger and better,” said DiBartolomeo. “It gives the chefs a chance to talk directly to their clients about their soups.”

One of those chefs was Beau Velduis from Seasons. He said it was their first time in the competition.

“We’re just happy to be part of the event,” he said. “There were a lot of fantastic soups. I don’t know how we were selected. We’ll be back next year.”

Artisan Grill owner Matthew Johnston said he likes being a part of the “SOUPer Wednesday event.

“As a restaurant owner, I look forward to it every year,” said Johnston. “Not once have I tried a soup that wasn’t amazing. It’s great fun and a great cause and I would always want to be involved in it.”

Phil Medler, one of those who attended, said that he is already excited for next year’s event.

Chloe DiPasquale and Lindsay Wandeloski from Gilligan’s Fire Grill dish out cheeseburger soup.

“This year, everything was excellent,” said Medler. “The variety of was really good and it was really hard to pick my favourite soup. This was my second year here and I certainly plan on coming back next year.”

The ACS “SOUPer Wednesday” takes place every February. This year’s event will see all funds go towards the purchase of a new accessible vehicle. It was sponsored by John D’Alimonte and Kim Wheeler RE/MAX Preferred Realty, Seasons Amherstburg, Dollars and Cents Investments Inc., and Tino’s Auto Service.

ACS’ next event will be the Spring Wine ‘n Hop, scheduled for May 9.

For more information on the services ACS offers or to make a donation towards the accessible vehicle, call 517-736-5471, visit their office at 179 Victoria St. S. or check out their website at

ACS’ “SOUPer Wednesday” returns Feb. 21


Soup lovers across Windsor-Essex rejoice – SOUPer Wednesday returns to Amherstburg Feb. 21.

The annual soup cook-off is now in its fourth year as a much-needed fundraiser for its host, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS).  The non-profit organization’s executive director says the funds raised will go towards the purchase of a new accessible vehicle.

“We’re looking to this event to kick-off a fundraising campaign that will help us purchase a new, accessible van,” DiBartolomeo said.  “For $10 a ticket, not only will you get to try some of the best soups made by some of the region’s best restaurants, you will give a helping hand to the people who rely on our transportation service.”

ACS has provided nearly 25,000 rides for seniors or adults with physical mobility issues over the past three years.  In December, they took one of their vehicles off the road and are looking to replace it.

The SOUPer Wednesday event pits 13 local restaurants and chefs against each other to determine who makes the region’s best soup.  Ticket holders receive all-you-can-eat soup, one dessert serving, and a ballot to vote for their favorite soup entry, and takeout tickets are also available.

The event will be hosted at the Columbus Community Hall (formerly known as the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall) at 190 Richmond St from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and is sponsored by John D’Alimonte & Kim Wheeler RE/MAX Preferred Realty, Season’s Amherstburg, Dollars & Cents Investments, and Tino’s Auto Service.

This year’s participating restaurants are the 19th Hole at Wildwood; Armando’s Amherstburg; Artisan Grill; Beacon Ale House; D.o.C.K 21; Dalhousie Bistro; Gilligan’s Amherstburg; Knights of Columbus; LA Town Grill; Maria’s Restaurant; Season’s Amherstburg; Smashed Apple Catering and Takeout; and last year’s champion Specks.

For more information, people can contact Amherstburg Community Services at 519-736-5471 or visit their website at

Pride Fest holds community consultation in Amherstburg

By Jonathan Martin


Windsor-Essex Pride Fest is putting new emphasis on the county.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held a consultation with the Windsor-based organization last Wednesday to help it build programming for the town’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

Local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community met with Pride Fest president David Lenz, Pride Fest project coordinator Karen Kahelin and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. Together, the group discussed what they believe Amherstburg needs to do in order to improve life for its minorities.

Two such community members, Jmar Eduarte and Kenny Goggin, are set to be married in March of 2019. Goggin was raised in Amherstburg, but spent some time abroad after high school. He said it wasn’t until he landed in Dubai, where he met Eduarte, that he fully embraced his sexuality. Despite coming to accept himself and learning to love another, he said he didn’t believe Amherstburg was ready to do the same. After attending Wednesday’s meeting, he thinks his mind has changed.

Jmar Eduarte (right) listens to his fiancée, Kenny Goggin, as he shares his experiences as a gay man living in Amherstburg at Amherstburg Community Services last Wednesday. Pride Fest Windsor-Essex held a community consultation at ACS to assess the needs of Amherstburg’s LBGTQ2S+ community.

“I would have never expected to see this in Amherstburg growing up,” he said. “Amherstburg is a very LGBTQ-friendly town, whether it knows it or not. The issues I thought I’d have living my life do not exist. They aren’t there.”

Goggin’s optimism was tempered by a recurring theme of fragmentation within the community, though. He echoed the sentiment of another local who attended the consultation, saying that he didn’t feel people on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum were visible enough or received enough acknowledgement by administration.

“I would have really liked to see a member of council here tonight,” he said.

Pride Fest president David Lenz said an invitation to Wednesday’s consultation was extended to town hall. No representatives were present.

“We’re trying to assess the needs of each community,” Lenz said. “Using the feedback we receive at these consultations, which will be ongoing, we’ll develop programs tailored to each community and put them on.”

Lenz said Pride Fest has already met with members of the town of Essex, has reached out to Leamington and plans to hold a meeting in Lakeshore. The outreach efforts are being funded by a Trillium grant that was handed out in March of 2017. The money will flow for three years, at which point Lenz said he hopes to apply for additional funding to keep the outreach efforts going.

Karen Kahelin (right) listens to Pride Fest Windsor-Essex president David Lenz speak at Amherstburg Community Services.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said Pride Fest’s outreach has already made an impact on her. She said Pride Fest asked if ACS would be willing to lend them its facilities, which she agreed to. She said she hopes it’s the first of many partnerships.

“Tonight, two organizations have come together in the hopes of addressing the needs of our community,” she said. “There are services which we already provide which perhaps could be extended to members of the LGBTQ community, such as transportation to Windsor Pride events, which is a need that was brought up a few times tonight.”

Goggin agreed with DiBartolomeo. He said the meeting itself was a positive change.

“Amherstburg is a great place to grow up and live your life,” he said. “Meetings like this will make that more evident and the message will get out there eventually.”


ACS needs new vehicle, hopes for public’s support



By Ron Giofu


Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) needs a new vehicle and is looking for the public’s assistance in acquiring it.

ACS had to take one of its buses off the road in late 2017 due to the costs of maintaining the vehicle, which was an accessible vehicle capable of accommodating 16 people. That vehicle was roughly ten-years-old and removing it from the road left ACS short a vehicle, said executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

The non-profit organization states it has provided almost 25,000 rides to Amherstburg and LaSalle seniors in the past three years. ACS is aiming to raise $75,000 to purchase a new accessible eight-person vehicle.

Local rides have been reduced by a day and DiBartolomeo said they want to restore that as soon as possible and not risk any further cutbacks. Reducing the amount of days seniors and others with accessibility issues have to use their vehicles “snowballs,” said DiBartolomeo.

“That means seniors that use the service have to cancel appointments at specialists they may have had to wait months for,” she said.

There is also a “Day Away” program that also could be impacted, as family members and caregivers have to rearrange plans if the vehicle service is not available.

“Of our three remaining vehicles, two of them are over ten years old, and frankly, if and when any of those need to be repaired, we might find ourselves in a spot where we need to turn people away,” DiBartolomeo said. “If ever there’s a time we need help from our community, now is that time.”

ACS keeps its vehicles in the best condition possible, added community awareness and fundraising co-ordinator Austin Tyrrell.

“Maintenance costs don’t go down with age,” he said. “These vehicles are well maintained but the costs to maintain them are significant. The new vehicle will help us reduce those costs.”

DiBartolomeo pointed out that it isn’t as easy as just making an application to the government for money. While ACS will request help from the Erie-St. Clair LHIN, the local agency is in competition with other agencies for funding and it could be a process that may take years before any funding is granted.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo stands beside of the agency’s buses, being driven by Dawn Laliberte. ACS had to take one of its vehicles off the road recently and is fundraising for a new one.

There may also be restrictions placed on how use of a government-funded vehicle could be utilized.

“By having your own vehicle, you can give more people access to a ride,” she said.

ACS wants to be a solution to the issue of accessible transportation, DiBartolomeo added.

DiBartolomeo says that Amherstburg Community Services have already sent out letters to local businesses requesting donations. They also started selling tickets for their annual 50/50 lottery draw with the cost being three tickets for $5 until their SOUPer Wednesday fundraiser Feb. 21. Tickets for that fundraiser are also on sale now.

DiBartolomeo has asked that anyone interested in donating to ACS can do so by cash or cheque at their office at 179 Victoria St. S. in Amherstburg, or by credit card through their website,


Windsor-Essex Pride Fest to hold community engagement sessions in county



By Jolene Perron


Those within the LGBTIQ2S+ community are being called upon to attend community engagement sessions throughout the county over the next couple of months as a local organization plans to deliver new specialized programs.

With funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WEPF) is planning to develop and deliver recreational and social programs to ensure all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S+) community have access to programming to ensure that they can connect and engage with other members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community and the greater community as a whole.

“The best way for us to understand what type of engagement would best serve the LGBTIQ2S+ community, especially outside of Windsor, is to hold community consultations to give members of the Windsor-Essex community the opportunity to tell us what programs they would like to see, and what are the best ways for us to provide opportunities for engagement and connection,” said David Lenz, president of the WEPF. “We chose the Town of Essex, Municipality of Leamington and the Town of Amherstburg as our Community Consultation locations.”

Lenz said they hope all members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community who live outside the city of Windsor limits, as well as their families, will attend the sessions to share their thoughts and ideas on how WEPF can best provide opportunities for connections and engagement in their respective communities. WEPF wants to know exactly what kinds of programs and social activities people in the LGBTIQ2S+ community need and want.

Currently, WEPF does not have any programming opportunities available in Amherstburg.

“The LGBTIQ2S+ community experiences a unique social isolation compared with other marginalized groups,” said Lenz. “Research indicates that the individuals in the LGBTTQIA community are 2.5 times more likely to live alone. The lack of peer or social support, activities, gatherings or other connective resources in the community cause a form of social isolation that often escalates into a number of other problems, including homelessness, depression, violence, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse and dropping out of school for some LGBTIQ2S+ youth.”

This is the reason the WEPF non-profit organization was developed. It is incorporated in the Province of Ontario and run by a volunteer Board of Directors, geared towards bringing members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S) community together, as well as their friends, allies and supporters.

“Through advocacy, social programs/events and initiatives, WEPF strengthens the sense of community and contributes to the vibrancy, health and overall well-being of LGBTIQ2S persons in Windsor-Essex,” said Lenz. “Windsor-Essex Pride Fest’s goal through it’s social programs funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation is to support the LGBTIQ2S community by empowering individuals to reach out to each other and to facilitate opportunities for connection and belonging through age-specific activities or initiatives, peer-facilitated groups, workshops and special events which will address social isolation and create a social environment that is more accommodating, resilient and connected to the broader LGBTTQIA community in Windsor-Essex.”

The community engagement session in Amherstburg is Jan. 31 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Amherstburg Community Services office.