ms. fresh fish

A day at Shepherds of Good Hope
June 12, 2006, 1:34 am
Filed under: general

Quel weekend.

I would love to write about the joyous time we had dragon boating at eight o'clock on Friday night in the freezing cold wind and rain with our ridiculously attractive paddling coach, or about the wonders of poutine varieties witnessed in Mtl on Saturday, but these just somehow don't seem quite as important stories to tell as the story of my Sunday morning.

Waking after far too little sleep due to previous night birthday celebrations (HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAILI!!), I made the hike to Shepherds of Good Hope at the corner of Murray and King Edward. Most of you know about Shepherds as they've been an institution in the Ottawa community, feeding and sheltering the homeless, for over twenty years. And if you hadn't heard about them before, I know many readers generously contributed and/or attended our Feed the Homeless Benefit last November at Zaphod's when we raised over $3,000 for their Christmas dinner and hamper program (note: we're doing it again this year, so book November 25th now!).

A co-worker organized about twenty-five of us from the Department of Justice's Policy Sector to storm the kitchen Sunday morning and do the food prep and serve the food. A keen turnout it was, I have to say. People were there bright-eyed and enthused at 8:30 a.m. and everyone worked together like a well oiled machine to make massive amounts of salad, prepare desserts trays, make sandwiches, peel about 4 million potatoes and… other stuff that was beyond my immediate view.

After finishing food prep and receiving a good background of what Shepherds does on a daily basis, we got to the fun stuff. Now really, when else do you have the opportunity to slosh around food, stack, clean and re-stack dishes with co-workers ranging from your managers, the people down the hall, your Assistant Deputy Minister and family members of assorted co-workers? Confession: I couldn't help but wonder when this would be a task on the Apprentice because let me tell you, it takes some teamwork, and you don't have much time to adjust.

I was on dishwashing duty. I got "trained" by Ken who has been volunteering at Shepherds for a long time and does so several days a week. He let me use the super rinser gun and control the heavy duty dishwasher, so I obviously felt I was the luckiest volunteer there. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure I saw some jealous glances from my co-workers serving and stacking dirty dishes when they saw that I got to use the sprayer. My ADM even made fun of me because I thought I was a bigshot with the machinery, but I think he was just a tad jealous. Something tells me they'll be more strategic next time in their duty choices.

But I should stop rubbing that in. It's not very sympathiques of me.

At the end of the shift, our little group, with the help of two staffers and a few senior volunteers, had made food for and served 335 hot meals. One meal at one shelter on one random day – 335.

At one point, as I was rushing around with a tray of mugs or cutlery or something, I happened to catch a glance into the Chapel, which is a separate room down the hall from the main dining room. It took me a few seconds to register what I was seeing. There at a table, sat a little girl about four years old with a long blond ponytail and a pink jacket and pink back-pack. For some reason, my initial conclusion was that she was the child of a staffer or volunteer. Even when I realized that she was there with her grandmother to get a meal, the part of me that knows the statistics and understands poverty issues was simply silenced. It was just too painful to digest.

I would like to take this admittedly measly opportunity to say thank you to all those who work and volunteer in our community, or any community in which you live, to help people meet their most basic needs and live as dignified a life as possible under the most dire of circumstances – whether homeless, or working to avoid homelessness. Not to get overly sappy to the point of meaninglessness, but you truly are the unsung heroes.

To find out more about Shepherds to donate or to volunteer or to arrange for your work team to volunteer for a day, check out:

I know I'll be back, if for no other reason than to use the super-sprayer.


1 Comment so far
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It brought tear’s to my eye’s. Good work.

Comment by yvosm

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