BLog finds new ways to stay connected

OS Amy Jensen’s cake, which depicted a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, won the contest

Base Logistics finds new ways to stay connected and have fun from a distance

By Sydney MacLeod,
CFB Halifax Public Affairs Intern

The CFB Halifax Base Logistics (BLog) team didn’t hesitate to welcome me with open arms when I asked to join the virtual Isolation Baking competition they were hosting in an app called Discord.

Sydney MacLeod shows the progress of her rainbow cupcake baking project.

I wasn’t familiar with Discord prior to this experience, but soon discovered its intended purpose, as it was listed in most app stores as Chat for Gamers due to its integration with gaming platforms like Steam and Twitch. Despite being extremely popular with gamers, Discord is also commonly used as a free communications app allowing users to add each other and send text, photos or voice chat all in real time.

The latter use – for general communication – is what appealed most to the team at BLog, as they looked for ways to connect as a team during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how did a baking competition become part of the communication strategy?

“Ultimately, our team’s presence on Discord evolved from a need to communicate for wellness checks and convey critical Base and unit information,” explains Cdr Christopher Chalmers, BLog Commanding Officer. “We tapped into the network for health and safety committees and working groups, but that was quickly followed by requests for entertainment events, family craft activities, celebrations for promotions, as well as new baby and retirement announcements. Chat groups also stood up for mental health resources, personal admin, coffeehouse discussions, and cooking groups. By week three, this online community began to develop naturally.”

Although the BLog virtual baking competition participants were BLog members or their families, they were kind enough to let me jump in for the day. As a Public Affairs intern, I was very interested in how other members across the Base are staying connected during the pandemic, and was eager to join in on the fun.

Even though I wasn’t eligible to win any prizes, the bragging rights alone were well worth it. MWO Joiner, the Company Sergeant Major for BLog’s Transportation and Electrical Mechanical Engineering division, added me to the channel they were using in Discord where the rules for the competition were posted and members could send messages and photos to each other.

The rules were fairly straightforward: one entry per household and teams of one or multiple persons from the same household were allowed. Participants were allowed to bake cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies and pies which were all judged based on quality, appearance, creativity, presentation, and more. There were five points allotted for each image taken during the baking process, as well as bonus points given for creativity. Each team or individual created their own team name, mine being Syd the kid, a nickname that I’ve carried since childhood. I suppose the name is very fitting, considering my choice of rainbow cupcakes and the absolute mess that I made baking them.

The final product turned out well, considering they were gone by the next morning. I guess you could say it was a pretty sweet way to spend a Friday.

I was extremely impressed by the talent of all the participants and how interactive they were being on Discord, sharing their pictures and liking and commenting on each other’s entries. There were multiple Nova Scotia Strong-themed desserts and numerous unique and delicious looking cakes and cookies which made it a tough decision for the judges. Though after much deliberation, OS Amy Jensen was announced the winner of the baking competition, with this incredible, Maritime Coastal Defence Ship-themed cake.

When doing the Isolation Baker challenge, I wanted to have fun by being simply absurd, so I was VERY shocked that my silly little cake won,” explains OS Jensen. “It was full of mishaps. My grand idea of painting a Canadian flag through the center of my cake morphed into a Canadian spider? Squid? We are not sure. When I saw my name on the winner’s roster, I couldn’t stop laughing! This tiny, edible disaster was making people smile, and making me smile in return.”

While this was obviously just a fun and friendly competition, I could see that all participants were getting into the competitive spirit. At the end of it, we all got to know one another a little better, have some fun, and share this experience.

As Cdr Chalmers mentioned, this baking competition is just one of the many creative, virtual activities BLog members have come up with in an effort to stay connected and positive during this challenging time. Other activities have included Virtual Treasure Hunts, Craft Days, Family Feud, Painting Days, and even an eSports tournament with games like Fortnite.

“The site has truly taken on a momentum of its own,” Cdr Chalmers reflects. “It’s become a resource for people. It’s become a support network. It’s become a community.”

And this community is exactly what OS Jensen and many of her colleagues like most about their unique online experience. “Because of an online platform that links a great number of members, I was able to forge connections to some absolutely amazing people whom I otherwise would never have had the chance to meet at all. It erases the roadblocks of physical distance, rank, or work placement. It takes all that away and you get to see the people.”

It takes a lot of hard work to make all these activities happen, so thank you to all of the members at BLog for putting in the effort to help us feel a little closer to each other while many of us are physically apart.