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Oct. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
Local News
Accidentally public grilled cheese fundraiser supports Kid's Help Phone
Marieke Dufresne, communications manager of Parmalat Canada's Niagara plant on Stewart Road, and Brenda Disher, office manager and driving force behind the Grilled Cheese Fundraiser. (Brittany Carter/ Niagara Now)

A cheesy in-house fundraiser for Kid’s Help Phone became unexpectedly public Thursday afternoon.

Office manager of Parmalat Canada’s Niagara plant, Brenda Disher hosted the third annual Grilled Cheese Fundraiser in the lunchroom, charging $5 for a fresh grilled cheese sandwich and a drink. By 1:30 p.m. about $315 was raised for the cause.

After the event was mistakenly announced as a public fundraiser on the radio early Thursday morning, Disher said she immediately ran out for more supplies and braced for impact.

“I said, if there’s anyone that’s going to be able to pull it off, I’ll pull it off. I’ll be ready for it.”

While the announcement didn’t draw in a hurricane of eager grilled cheese enthusiasts, Disher said it did attract about 20 people from off the street ready for warm lunch and happy to support the cause.

She considered making the grilled cheese lunch public in the past but hadn’t gotten around to planning it. After Thursday’s success, she said it’s something the company might look into for next time.

“It was kind of a thought before, then it was like, no this is enough for now. But I think for Kid’s Help Phone it would be nice to try to do more of that on a larger scale.”

Parmalat Canada is one of the founding partners of Kid’s Help Phone, promoting internal fundraising by the employees on an ongoing basis. The cheese for Disher’s fundraiser is provided by the company while she supplied everything else out of pocket.

It’s a cause she said is very important to support, adding that she understands the need for the services.

“I’m actually raising my own niece, so you know that you have to be there to support kids. That was kind of my reasoning behind my starting point for taking that on myself.”

The lunch event lines up well with the promotion of the nation-wide Walk so Kids can Talk campaign. Disher will be walking on May 5 at 8:30 a.m., starting at Jaycee Gardens Park in St. Catharines. She said the community is welcome and encouraged to join on the walk.

“If you have dogs, bring your dogs – everybody’s welcome. A lot of time we have face painting, colouring for the kids. Boston Pizza is a sponsor, so they always donate pizza. We always bring something from Parmalat as well.”

This year, she said she thinks Parmalat will supply chocolate milk during the walk.

She has been working at the plant on Stewart Road for 42 years, staying on through transitions from its initial capacity as Avondale Dairy Bar to its current ownership under Parmalat Canada.

Anyone who wants to sponsor Disher on her Walk so Kids can Talk campaign can find the link at, under Parmalat Niagara or individually under Brenda Disher.

Currently, she is ranked number three, with $1,112 raised, on the nation-wide scoreboard on the sponsorship page.