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The gift of food: A family affair

Day 7 of the #12daysforgood was a family affair of collecting money for food and loading up the local food donation bin! And what better way to work together as a family but to build in some healthy competition.


We all put money in the pot to buy food for our foodbank up in Meaford Ontario raising 270$ between my family and 3 of my best friends. We split the money in half and created two teams. Each team had the challenge to fill their grocery cart with the HEALTHIEST food they could while not going over their team budget of 135$. We tore around the store trying to make wise and frugal decisions to provide the best quality of food for our local community while making sure we were able to get as much food as we could.


We developed tactics of hiding our groceries with coupons books so the other team couldn’t steal our brilliant ideas and blocking each other while we put the remainder of all of the non-perishable milk for children’s lunches or peanut butter in our carts! In the end our choices complemented each other so well and we covered all of the food groups and focused on high protein foods where possible.

After all this (and a fun photoshoot via our smart phones) my team of myself, my mother and my husband Kurt went over our budget by four dollars thus losing the competition to my to best friends Sarah and Viveca, and Sarah’s lovely husband Mitch. We laughed, we smiled and we managed to fill a completely empty food donation bin to the point of explosion with two packed full carts of healthy groceries!


Since I’m a sore loser we made a second competition where my dad marked the receipts for the healthiness of the food per dollar spent, and low and behold my team ranked on top!

This was a fantastic experience for me and for those in my family as we were able to give back while working together, building fantastic memories and getting that wonderful warm fuzzy feeling that you can only get by giving back to your community.



It takes a village…or sometimes just a cul-de-sac

On Day 4 of the #12daysforgood extravaganza with House of Friendship I shared the gift of community with my neighbours. But not in an “I actually did anything for my neighbours” kind of way, but in a “we as neighbours did something for our community” kind of way!


After chatting with Nancy from Family and Children’s Services today I learned there was one family left in the Adopt-a-Family program to bring Christmas presents to a low-income family with a deadline of dropping off wrapped presents by tomorrow. I knew I could not take this on by myself as it would cost 225$ to cover the family of three that was in need.


So in thinking “community” I decided to get all of my amazing neighbours in on the plan! So I popped by the HoF office to grab some #12daysforgood pins, loaded up on candy canes (a little bribery never hurt) and I began to knock on neighbours doors to gather as much money as I could to buy our adopted family’s Christmas presents!


You would think that little adventure could ensue….but between me falling on my tush and throwing #12daysforgood pins in every which direction, and a number of strange events (like neighbours hiding when I knocked even though I could totally tell they were home….) I was able to get 104$ before 5pm! I am going to do a second round tonight for all of those folks who weren’t home from work/school/life yet. With 7 houses still to hit I am sure we will get mighty close to our target!


Now you may be thinking…what an odd thing to do when you are supposed to be helping your neighbours. But for me it was really neat to finally MEET all of my neighbours! I have lived on this street for 5 years, and likely have only met half of my neighbours even once. So the most exciting part for me beyond, buying presents, having a wrapping paper party tonight, and making Christmas special for one family, I was able to build my own community and create a new sense of familiarity on my good old cul-de-sac.

And I will top it off by taking some fabulous pictures of the beautiful gifts they helped to buy and send them out in christmas cards to all of my wonderful neighbours who donated and helped to sponsor a family with me. Thank you to all of you cool cul-de-sac dwellers! You sure made my day!



Thoughts on being a Do Gooder #12daysforgood

As I embark on my 12 day journey of highlighting my Do Gooderness (is that even a word?) and help to inspire others to follow suit I wanted to reflect on how being a “Do Gooder” has been ingrained in my identity since I was just little lady.



The focus of this years #12daysforgood campaign through House of Friendship includes volunteering and donating of money, and it goes beyond this to include justice, helping your neighbour and bringing joy to those around you. I like to think that this is the motto I live and have always lived by. Whenever I have time, money, knowledge or anything else to offer that will make the day or life of someone else better I do not hesitate to do it.


Although I haven’t “officially” launched my #12daysforgood campaign as I just got back from visiting my grandmother last night at midnight it has been in my thoughts as I interacted with the world. Every door I held open, or smile I offered was done to bring joy to the lives of folks around me. I couldn’t be more excited to fit in 12 good deeds over the next and final 10 days of the campaign.


I have my mother to thank for my keenness to be a Do Gooder. As a child I went to elementary school an hour early every day to help my mom put together food for the breakfast program. I had toaster burns and sticky fingers for 7 years from putting Cheez whiz, peanut butter and jam on toast and crackers (mmmm Cheez Whiz). Watching my mother work so hard to make sure that program was a reality showed me how important it is to work in our communities to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to Belong and Thrive. One of my earliest memories of being a Do Gooder when I was about 6 was when I saw a student get on the bus in the winter without a winter coat I didn’t even hesitate to give her mine, and needless to say even though my mother likely didn’t know how to react to see me getting off the bus in a wool sweater completely covered in snow she knew that I had done the right thing.


So now, here I am 20 years later thankful for the opportunity that House of Friendship has provided me and the community, to reflect on the good that we have done, highlight the good we are currently doing, and look closely for the good we can do today.


So Cheers to HoF and I hope that all of us are able to find 12 good deeds to do this Holiday Season to make our community shine!


Check out what I’m talking about at @HOFKW or

Check out Juanita’s thoughts on being a Do Gooder (one of the another amazing Do Gooders!)

Or follow all of the Do Gooders at once on twitter! (thanks Juanita)



The simile of Motorcycles and Community Based Research

In an attempt to keep my blog momentum going from my recent motorcycle adventure I asked myself what is it that I love so much about riding a motorcycle, and what does it have to do with my other all consuming passion Community Based Research?


On the surface you may think “what are you talking about? Riding a bike and doing research have nothing in common!”


Well after 14,000 kms to ponder this very question here is my simile for you.


Motorcycles are like Community Based Research because….


1)   it will always takes you longer to get anywhere than you initially plan.

2)   the people you trek with or meet along the way will be the foundation of a successful (and memorable) journey.

3)   The journey is just as important as the destination.

4)   Practice doesn’t make perfect – the world will always have new variables to throw in the mix.

5)   The map you create before leaving may be altered along the way – flexibility is key


Perhaps now that I have written these down they will stop running through my head every time I participate in either riding or researching!


I hope you have enjoyed reading my ponderings as much as I did thinking and writing about them.



Anything you would like to see me blog about? Shoot me a message at


Common Thread’s 1st Anniversary

As I began the journey of Common Thread on February 2nd 2010 I could not have foreseen the wonderful and exciting year ahead. Not only have I had the chance to work with great clients working towards fantastic positive community change, but I have also had the chance to build relationships and explore my community.

The year’s highlights

My first startup drinks – Coincidentally the day I registered my business was also the night of February startup drinks at McMullan’s. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet other small businesses and enter the world of the entrepreneurs. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience as I felt supported and celebrated in taking the leap into small business
Geographical exploration – After living in the Waterloo Region community for close to a decade it was wonderful to see new places, spaces and faces as I floated around the region doing site visits, attending events and sitting on different councils and committees!
Ignite 3 – “Follow your Passion: Using Talk for Social Change”  gave me the opportunity to speak to my community passions and use my voice to impact the way attendees think about “isms” in our everyday life. I used my 5 minutes to speak about taboo topics in hopes that if I speak up others may feel safe to follow suit.
OneSmallAct – After working in partnership with KCI, community organizations, the City of Kitchener and Working Reel Productions on September 29th we held the OneSmallAct event. This was a day to celebrate intergenerational community and was the first step towards building a stronger school and community relationship for the KCI community. With a keynote from Abhi Ahluwalia from unlearn and a fantastic 10 minutes film produced by Buddy from Working Reel Productions it was a night to remember!
Building my own Community – The number of fabulous people who live and work in the Waterloo Region is almost overwhelming. I have had the greatest year building new friendships, networking with super fantastic folks and taking the time to go to startup drinks, cinq a sept, ignite, Steel Rails, the KW Symphony or just hang out and play sports with a great group of other local small businesses (Go ABat!). The business community in the Region is so wonderful….I am proud and lucky to be a part of it!
Giving Back – On top of working with my clients and getting to know Waterloo Region in a new way I have had the opportunity to give back by sitting on different committees and volunteering with diverse groups . I currently sit on the Volunteer Action Centre Business Council as well as the CUExpo and throughout my year I also sat on mutltiple evaluation committees including the Evaluation Committee for the Alliance for Children and Youth.

Overall it’s going to be a hard year to beat! As I move into year two of work at Common Thread I am thankful to many people including Kurt my fiance and partner personally and professionally, Amy and Karl from CuteGecko for their brilliant work on my website, logo and overall branding, and so many more (you know who you are!)

Looking forward to the next chapter!


Get in Touch

At Common Thread Consulting,
our vision is a community that is interconnected, capacity rich and efficient in implementing
positive change.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals.


“There are many words to describe Natalie Brown – passionate, energetic, skilled, good-natured, committed, accountable – but when I think of my experience working with Natalie as we developed the Center for Community Research, Learning and Action at Wilfrid Laurier University, one word stands out: integrity. Natalie is of “sound construction”. She approaches community practice with honesty, solid principles, and a genuineness that is unmatched. She works hard, cares deeply about the work and she values relationships above all else. I could always count on her to get things done right and with care. I certainly wish there were two of Natalie so I could leave one in Kitchener-Waterloo and bring one to work with me at my new home at the University of Miami. She’s a fantastic community researcher and action partner and I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to replace her.”
by Dr. Scot Evans, Professor at the University of Miami