This is what I love to do the most. Sharing my good fortune with others is so rewarding and this month I was able to support some good people who are helping those often forgotten. The Anti-Recidivism Coalition in Southern California helps people coming out of prison to get their life back on track. They needcd two vans to transport residents to and from their housing programs where they provide support with education and career opportunities. I bought the vans and they are already in use:
One of the life skills they teach at the housing programs is cooking and they needed new kitchen equipment. You know I was happy to provide that as well. Lots of it.
Learning to cook will not only keep them healthy, it can also lead to a great career. I like to think that someone who was driven in these trucks and who learned to cook using these tools, will become a productive citizen with a good job, maybe as a cook, maybe even using my recipes!
Celebrity and philanthropist Jenny Jones loved her sister. And her sister, Liz Rankin, loved My Sisters’ Place.
So it was appropriate that when her sister died, Jones decided to donate $50,000 to the London women’s shelter. And it was appropriate the donation be announced among dozens of women there Wednesday.
This plaque will hang at My Sister’s Place in appreciation of a $50,000 donation from Jenny Jones in memory of her sister, Liz Rankin. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)
“It was very close to her, what they do here,” said Andrea VanderWeide, who’s Rankin’s daughter and Jones’s niece. “My mom had mentioned to my aunt many times that this was a charity that meant something to her. My aunt is pretty shook up. She wanted to honour my mom’s memory.”
The Jones family grew up in London, with the matriarch the original Sophie of Sophie’s Gown Shoppe, where growing up, Jenny and her sister, Liz, would pose in the windows as models and help with the sewing. Jenny Jones became a household name, hosting her own talk show from 1990 to 2003, and a generous, behind-the- scenes contributor to many causes.
Liz Rankin became a loyal employee at Drewlo Holdings in London, retiring only a few years ago. She died suddenly May 7, 2017, at 73. “My mom was a strong, independent woman,” VanderWeide said. “If there is anything that stands out about my mom, in the memory of anyone who ever met her, it would be her desire to help. She knows somewhere that she is still helping.”
Not long after Rankin’s death, My Sisters’ Place received a phone call from someone who said she was Jenny Jones, director Susan Macphail recalled. “I said, is that the Jenny Jones? She called because she had just suffered a heartbreak. Her beloved sister had passed away.” Jones spoke about her love of her sister and her support of women helping women, Macphail said. Jones wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s announcement.
The shelter decided to put the money toward several women’s empowerment programs, including a theatre group, financial literacy sessions, peer support and self-compassion groups, which don’t have regular funding.
“It’s always bittersweet when we receive a gift that is in memory of someone,” said Beth Mitchell, chief executive of Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex, which operates My Sisters’ Place. “We know it represents a loss for the family and the community. On the other hand, we hope that this legacy brings some comfort. Certainly, for us it brings us much joy and we know it will be used well.”
Two women who use My Sisters’ Place spoke Wednesday about the impact of the organization on their lives. “Before I found My Sisters’ Place, I was homeless, addicted and suffering from severe mental health issues,” Beth said. “With the help of My Sisters’ Place, I am housed, happily married, no longer addicted and my mental health is in check.”
Just coming each day and seeing women who want to help changes lives, Patricia said. “It gives us a sense of hope, coming in and seeing friends and people just gathered around.”
My sister, Liz, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. We were just two years apart and she was living a full and happy life, still in the town where we both grew up, London, Ontario. She had two daughters, who both lived close by and she shared her home with her dog, Zoey. Two grandchildren were also a part of her life, Taelor, who also lived in London and Bradon in Alberta. Liz and I shared a love of cooking and often exchanged recipe notes over the phone.
She came to visit often with her daughters and she loved going to the Grove. I will think of her every time I go there, especially to the candy store where she could always find her favorite Necco Wafers. Her last visit to L.A. was last October, when she and the girls went to experience the Universal Citywalk Halloween Horror Nights. They said it was the best time they ever had. A few months before that I saw her in London at the opening of the new playground I donated to Springbank Park in London. It was the same place where she and I used to play as children. I’m so glad she got to share that experience with me. Here she was at Springbank Park last June. I wish I could see her again. She left so quickly and sooner than any of us imagined.
I’m taking a break from my blog so I can bake more cookies. Seriously, there is not enough time to focus on my Jenny Can Cook website and recipes, handle the daily responsibilities of being alive, and still have time to go to the mall. So I won’t blog for a while but I will start back up when my next philanthropy project gets going. (I need time for that too!)
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What is my problem? I can’t throw things away! Those cute plastic bottles that honey comes in? I have twenty-seven! After my next batch of granola bars, it’ll be 28! And a good jar with a lid that screws on tight? I can’t throw them away! I need a bigger kitchen.
It’s not just my kitchen items. This is much bigger than that. I have wrapping paper from 1985; Rubber bands spilling out of a shoe box; Pieces of fabric from dresses I sewed in the 70s; Did you know old socks make good cleaning rags? I digress. I also have: Cookbooks that use ingredients they don’t even make any more; Keys that don’t open anything… but you never know; Plastic forks from my 40th birthday party; Enough pieces of string for any possible things that need to be tied up… until I die.
The new playground is finally open! There were hundreds of excited children, just waiting for us to cut the ribbon and then wow! They ALL ran past us to play! That was the moment I had dreamed about but seeing it in person was even better than I imagined.
They played on every single new piece of equipment, climbing, spinning, hanging upside down, and all I could hear was the sound of pure joy. This new play area is now the largest fully accessible playground in the city.
The triple slide seemed to be a big hit with the little ones, especially when they land on the new soft rubber safety surface.
It was hard to count but it looked like at least 300 kids ran on to play and we had about 1,000 people who came for the opening. It was so much fun, with free snow cones, cupcakes, and face-painting. Here’s a little girl who stopped to thank me for the new playground.
I simply can’t put into words how rewarding this was for me and the joy that I felt seeing this playground in person. It took a team of people from the city who worked for almost a year to make it happen and my gratitude goes out to every one on the team. I appreciate how many people turned out for the opening on a beautiful, but hot, sunny day. Most importantly, I got the share this day with the person whose idea and vision made this all possible, my London Hometown Hero, Shelah Brook. Welcome to “Shelah’s Place.”
Kids in London are counting the days until the new playground is open and it’s almost ready. The colors are just as fun and bright as I imagined. And the number of things to do will be awesome. I love the triple slide!
Next, they’ll be installing the rubber safety surfacing and I’m especially happy that this new playground will be handicapped accessible. I can’t wait to see it in person!
They finally started working on the new playground in my hometown of London, Ontario. This week they are installing the handicapped accessible equipment. Then next week the entire area gets covered with rubber safety surfacing. After that, some last minute work, and then the grand opening in Springbank Park.
This is the park where I used to play growing up. My sister and I couldn’t wait to get on the swings and teeter totter and we loved the little round wading pool. Springbank Park is a beautiful place that sits alongside the Thames River. Yes, both London, Ontario and London, England have a Thames River.
I have only seen pictures of what’s to come and I can’t wait until it’s actually there. The grand opening is coming soon!
Here’s a rendering of the new playground coming to my hometown of London, Ontario. That’s all rubber safety surfacing and there are so many fun things to do I can’t even list them all. I wanted it to be colorful (if you’ve seen my kitchen and all those spatulas, you know I love color!) and I think the blue, yellow, and red look fantastic.
The work starts next month and the grand opening is planned for June 18th. There is a post on the city website where comments by residents are welcomed. Here’s a link: