Category Archives: Our Stories

Volunteer Spotlight: Normand

Normand started volunteering with The Mission over 6 years ago and has consistently and quite amazingly volunteered for 5 shifts a week since then. At 77, he earned his living as a bus driver, but found himself with too much free time once he retired.

“I took my pension, and the days were long at home; so I decided to volunteer” he says. After a brief pause to reflect, he states “This is my family now”.

Normand’s family is made up of our team of kitchen staff and fellow volunteers. Following him back into the kitchen, he lights up as he chats with his colleagues. They share jokes and laughs as they begin to prepare for dinner service. In an average shift, Normand will help with food preparation – today he is chopping up some vegetables. Then, right on schedule, he’ll line up to help serve dinner.

Caring volunteers like Normand are vital in our ever-increasing need to feed our community. As grocery prices continue to rise, more and more people depend on The Ottawa Mission for meals. Normand knows just how important our meal service is to those who pay us a visit.

“When you give them a plate, there’s a big smile on their face. It’s what keeps me going”.

We are so appreciative of our amazing volunteers like Normand!

Learn more about how to volunteer at The Ottawa Mission & watch our volunteer appreciation video below! 

Volunteer Spotlight: Teckla

Teckla has been volunteering with us for 4 years, and her passion to help her community is proven by the fact that she has already given us over 1,700 volunteer hours. That’s an astounding 71 full days of volunteer service!

Having lived here for over 30 years, Teckla noted the growing need to provide food, shelter, and services to our vulnerable community. She joined us for a Saturday shift, which turned into a Sunday shift, and then a Monday shift. Now she volunteers as many as 5 days a week.

“I want to help these people. When I was young and growing up in Sri Lanka I was in an orphanage, so I am able to put myself in their shoes” she says.

Teckla brings an inspiring work ethic to each and every shift. She had a brief stint volunteering for our laundry services, but finds that the hustle needed to prepare and serve meals better suits her boundless energy. She also prepares and packages to-go meals that are brought up to the guests staying in our hospice.

“We’re like a big family here. We all teach each other and we all give a little bit. I’m happy to do it”. She reflects.

We’re so grateful for our volunteers; we could not serve our community without the help of compassionate people like Teckla!

Learn more about how to volunteer at The Ottawa Mission & watch our volunteer appreciation video below! 

Volunteer Spotlight: Jack

A cornerstone of the Ottawa Mission for over 20 years, Jack has provided countless hours of his time in service to our community. As a volunteer, he has sat on our Board of Directors for decades and has helped to guide the long-term outlook of the Ottawa Mission.

Of our volunteer board of directors, Jack says “You represent the community”. The board includes, and has included our local: CPAs, doctors, professors, spiritual leaders, and homelessness and housing experts, to name some.

As for himself, Jack spent 18 years in federal politics as an MP. With a smile, he warmly reflects on bringing fellow politicians over from the Hill to volunteer alongside him at our meal services. And it’s in our kitchen where Jack continues to provide additional volunteer hours, serving out nourishing meals to those in need. He knows how impactful both of his volunteer roles can be.

To volunteer on the board is important because it helps set the direction that the Mission takes. However, it’s equally important to volunteer in the kitchen because I get to work alongside our staff and get to know our clients, which is really meaningful”. 

We appreciate the kindness and generosity of all our volunteers, no matter the role. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services that our community’s most vulnerable so desperately need.

Learn more about how to volunteer at The Ottawa Mission & watch our volunteer appreciation video below! 

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda

Like so many of our selfless volunteers, Linda is inclined to highlight others as opposed to herself. We spoke to Linda about Lloyd, who was a remarkable volunteer for the Ottawa Mission.

This year, Linda and a team of our volunteers participated in The Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk in memory of Lloyd. The walk raised money for local charities that support people experiencing hurt, hunger, and homelessness. Lloyd’s team raised an exceptional $18,770!

Of Lloyd, Linda remembers “He had a way of making you feel special when he spoke to you. He was a warm, humble man.” 

A dedicated volunteer herself, Linda has helped prepare and serve meals alongside fellow volunteers for the better part of 15 years. Over that time, those fellow volunteers became close friends. She’s also helped out at our special community events, such as bingo night.

Linda is passionate about breaking down the stereotypes faced by those who use our services. She remarks that many of those that come through our dining hall doors have jobs but simply cannot afford to always purchase and cook their own meals at home.

She knows just how much the vulnerable in our community appreciate a helping hand. When asked about her favourite part of volunteering, she replies “The gratitude of the people we’re serving”.

Thanks to caring people like Lloyd and Linda, we’re able to be more than a shelter.

Learn more about how to volunteer at The Ottawa Mission & watch our volunteer appreciation video below! 

Why we work for The Mission: ANDREW AND LEANDRO

Andrew and Leandro are one of two sets of brothers who are a part of The Mission family. Leandro joined in the summer of 2019 out of a desire to help people. Before coming to The Mission from the military, he hadn’t seen much homelessness, and was humbled by the overwhelming need for The Mission’s services. “I remember an older couple who came for a community meal before the pandemic. The meal hour was almost over, and they hadn’t yet finished. When I mentioned that the hour was almost over and they had to finish, they slid the remainder of their meals into a bag and left. That hit me hard.”

While things have changed due to COVID-19, interactions with clients continue to make an impression on Leandro. “These changes are challenging, but we find ways to connect with clients. For example, we see them in the community meal line and catch up with them even though they can’t enter the shelter. This maintains our rapport with them.”

Andrew joined a bit later, after working in a group home. “I’ve learned a lot about homelessness since coming here, especially how debilitating mental illness can be. I’ve also learned about empathy, compassion, and discretion in terms of how to respond to clients to meet their needs. Each client is different, and each teaches me tolerance, acceptance and how to support each person. Ultimately all clients want to move on from the shelter, and we want them to do that. We help them along their way to independence, everything from helping them get their meds, to small thing such as handing out toiletries.”

“I’ve seen increasing diversity among our clients, including students and refugees. Coming from an immigrant family, this breaks my heart. Homelessness is completely non-discriminatory, and anyone can become homeless. Clients appreciate the support they receive across programs, which is phenomenal. I’m happy to hear from former clients after they’ve left the shelter and are doing well.” Leandro says.

Andrew notes the support he receives from his team. “I’ve learned a lot from staff here and am really thankful. The training we get here is fantastic. And the mentorship from supervisors and our manager Mikel is great. Our team members trust each other and look out for each other. We take care of each other.” This extends to Leandro as well. “I’m reassured that Leandro’s on my team and has my back.”

“We wouldn’t be here if The Mission didn’t do good work,” Leandro notes.

Why I work for The Mission: KRISTYN

For someone so young, Kristyn is a mission “old soul”. “I grew up at the Mission.” Joining the kitchen after high school, she has worked her way up from dishwasher to sous-chef. In 2019, she was once again promoted to Manager of Food services.

“I wanted to work in a shelter to help vulnerable people, but initially thought that it wouldn’t be my career. so i did my undergrad in psychology while working in the kitchen. Over time, I fell in love with culinary work and realized that this would be my permanent vocation.” Accordingly, she obtained her red seal, a prestigious certification.

Kristyn is responsible not only for the Mission’s meal program, but also for its catering program, which provides training opportunities for Food Service Training Program (FSTP) students. The catering program has expanded five-fold since 2010, with revenues going back into the FSTP.

As the beneficiary of Chef Ric’s mentorship, Kristyn believes in paying it forward. “When someone pays attention to you, you have confidence to be successful. This is what Chef Ric did for me, and this is what I want to do in my new role — encourage individuals and build on their strengths.”

Kristyn also believes in encouraging clients. “Each day, I try to look clients in the eye and treat them with dignity and respect, like an equal, to hopefully improve their quality of life for that day.”

Why I volunteer for The Mission: LLOYD

Lloyd has been volunteering at The Mission for almost nine years. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and his surprise birthday party included family and friends, and members of his extended family at the Mission.

Lloyd comes to the Mission every Monday and Thursday morning all year round to help prepare meals in the kitchen, serve lunch, and sort and store donated food in the stockroom. He is also an enthusiastic fundraiser and participant in our annual Coldest Night of the year Walk to raise funds for those who are homeless, and, beyond this, he is a faithful monthly donor to the Mission. In addition, he is a valued member of the dedicated volunteer team that prepares 100 to 150 turkeys for our special thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations each year weeks in advance.

Lloyd was inspired to become a volunteer at the Mission by his late wife, Micheline, who was a lifelong advocate for the hungry, homeless and hurting. Lloyd says that coming here and doing whatever he can to help the Mission is a tribute to Micheline’s memory and a “spiritual journey” that enriches his life. The

Mission, in turn, has been blessed in so many ways by Lloyd’s tireless kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit.

“I enjoy coming here and feel very rewarded by being here. I’m inspired by the wonderful staff, including Chef Ric, and the other volunteers. I’ve made many good friends over the years and hope that my health will allow me to continue.”

Why I turned to The Mission for help: WILLIAM

William is a gentle, articulate man who is also an artist – but was never able to translate his passion into a career – until he enrolled in the FSTP.

In 2017, William was unemployed and struggling with serious health issues. While having a meal at the Mission, he heard about the program, and talked to Chef Ric about enrolling. He was accepted and was making progress until another health crisis forced him to discontinue the training. When he recovered, he was accepted back without question, and graduated in June 2018 as class valedictorian. Afterward, he enrolled in and completed Algonquin College’s Indigenous Cook program.

His FSTP experience had a profound effect on William. What struck him was the quality of the kitchen environment, and the equally high standards and work ethic of the staff and volunteers. What fed William’s artistic spirit was the opportunity to create different types of food, and to participate in catering activities where his plating talents shone. His health improved, which he attributes to his success in the program and newfound passion for the art of cooking.

“Chef Ric and the FSP gave me the support, encouragement and tools to re-invent my life. I am so thankful.”

Why I turned to The Mission for help: KERRY

2018 was the first time in years that Kerry had a place to call home at Christmas. Kerry had spent much of his time homeless — couch-surfing, sleeping in vehicles, or motels. He was able to work most of the time — everything from commercial house painting to oil rigs to retail.

Two years ago, Kerry decided that he needed finally to seek help for his addiction. After visiting a detox centre, Kerry was ready to enter long-term treatment through The Mission’s stabilization and LifeHouse programs and afterwards in one of our 2nd stage houses — still receiving counselling and support. He worked with our housing staff to find a place, and finally moved into his own apartment. Our staff also helped Kerry access furniture and appliances.

Kerry appreciates that subsidized housing is a rare commodity in our community, and while he feels fortunate to have a place, his heart goes out to others who are waiting. “For people recovering from addiction, or suffering from mental illness, a journey without a destination is not an option. ’ve found my home — and now I finally have hope for the future.”

Why I turned to The Mission for help: COLIN

Colin suffers from addiction, and has been in and out of shelters for years. Last year, while staying at the Mission, he needed knee replacement surgery. After surgery, he returned to the shelter.

Colin’s recovery was stalled by wound complications. He was in severe pain, and the threat of infection was high. Our medical team arranged for a bed in the hospice, where he could receive 24-hour care. “The level of care from staff and volunteers is amazing. I once witnessed a volunteer with an unconscious patient, holding his hand and playing soothing music, for hours on end.”

Colin left the hospice in eight days — he knew there were others who needed the bed more than he did. Daily for the next eight weeks Colin visited the Primary Care Clinic where Nurse Practitioners cleaned and dressed his wound, and also encouraged him. Colin then sought treatment for his addiction at the Mission. “I realized how lucky I was to be in pretty good health, and to have received so much care and compassion. I decided not to waste another day of my life.”