The Ottawa Mission is proud to announce that this Fall our own Chef Ric Watson has been honored by the province with the Ontario Medal of Good Citizenship! This is a very exclusive honor that is reserved for individuals who “through long- term efforts, have made an outstanding contribution to their community”. Chef Ric was recognized primarily for his years of service at The Ottawa Mission, his passionate efforts to make our local community a better place to live, and for his groundbreaking work with The Mission’s Food Service Training Program – which has been operating for 11 years.
The Food Services Training Program is a unique community partnership that includes Algonquin College, St. Lawrence College Employment Services Ottawa and Ontario Works. Students come to us because they are unemployed, and spend five months learning cooking skills and culinary theory. The program runs for five months twice each year and the majority of students are successfully employed when they graduate.
Outside his work at the Ottawa Mission, Chef Ric currently serves on a number of community boards and also constantly works with all our like-minded partners in the community to make sure that each organization has the best resources for all their food service needs, for all their clients.
Chef Ric was presented with his Medal of Good Citizenship by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor on December 1st at a ceremony in Queen’s Park. Chef was one of only 10 people being recognized for this achievement in 2016.
Jonathan Hollinger has always embraced the importance of people giving back to their community because they care, and because they can. A few years ago he was inspired by a quote from a 17th century writer and preacher named John Bunyan who said “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” For us at The Ottawa Mission this means the gift of Jonathan’s generosity as both a donor and, for the past three years, as a volunteer.
Every Monday Jonathan shows up after work for his shift – alternating between serving food in the kitchen and delivering meals to patients in our hospice. Both jobs are rewarding, but it is his time spent with people in the hospice that particularly strikes a chord with Jonathan.
Besides making sure that each patient is personally served their meal, there is another kind of nurturing going on at the hospice. As Jonathan sees it, sometimes it’s just a matter of being there. Many patients have no family to speak of and no visitors. And while they are often not feeling up to having a conversation, just sitting by their bed and holding their hand seems to make all the difference. It’s about providing whatever comfort you can – and offering the gift of friendship to those who are often friendless.
Jonathan says he is inspired by the staff, volunteers and clients at The Mission – that he witnesses compassion in action in all of them. For us, we are inspired by Jonathan’s deep belief that everyone, no matter their circumstances, deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion… that everyone deserves a friend when they need it most.
Starting a new life in a new country with a new language, is no easy feat. Filomeno arrived in Canada as a refugee from Angola in April 2014. After several months he still lacked the proper paperwork to enable him to seek employment, and his housing arrangements fell through. This young man had always worked hard, and he was heartbroken at the thought of being homeless. Someone suggested that he seek shelter at The Ottawa Mission, and Filomeno has not looked back!
While staying at the shelter, Filomeno connected with our Client Services Centre where staff helped him develop a plan for his future. His goals were clear from the start. He wanted to find a job, and he wanted to find a way to give back to his new community.
As a first step, Filomeno looked for a way to improve his English skills. We helped him to enrol in a five month course called “ESL for the Trades” and he passed with flying colours! He also joined our French Club to improve his communication skills. Finally, our staff worked with Filomeno to develop his resume, and helped him to obtain his work permit.
Today, Filomeno has achieved his two goals. He is working part time as a dishwasher, and he is volunteering several times a week at another charity where he works in the garden and helps out at their food bank. He has also applied for housing and looks forward to living on his own and continuing to give back in whatever way he can.
Lloyd Richards was inspired to become a volunteer at The Ottawa Mission by his late wife, Micheline, who was a lifelong advocate for the hungry, homeless and hurting. At 77, Lloyd, a proud native of Cape Breton, brings special energy and dedication to everything he does. And at Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular, one of Lloyd’s volunteer roles becomes very important to all of the hungry and homeless who come to us for a delicious turkey dinner.
Many weeks ahead of our special celebrations donations of frozen turkeys start arriving at The Mission. With training and lots of practice, Lloyd has become expert at de-boning and slicing close to 100 turkeys for each celebration so that everything is ready for the day.
But Lloyd’s commitment to The Mission goes far beyond helping us prepare for our turkey dinners. He is here every Monday and Wednesday morning all year round, helping prepare meals in the kitchen, serving lunch, and sorting and storing donated food in the stockroom. Lloyd is also an enthusiastic fundraiser and participant in our annual Coldest Night of the Year event and, beyond this, he is a faithful monthly donor to The Mission.
Lloyd says that coming here and doing whatever he can to help us is a tribute to his wife’s memory and a “spiritual journey” that enriches his life. Through his actions, he enriches many other lives as well.
Here at The Ottawa Mission we have seen military veterans of all ages come through our front door over the years – for many reasons. Some come for a meal, some stay at the shelter for a time, and some are desperately looking for help to change their situation. Many are also dealing with shame of asking for help and may not tell people about the service they have given their country.
Thanks to the leadership of a group called Soldiers Helping Soldiers, past and present members of the Canadian Forces are actively trying to connect with veterans in need. Members of this group are volunteering in our kitchen twice a month, serving lunch to hundreds of hungry people. They also do a walk about to all the shelters in the lead up to Remembrance Day each year to reach out to those who may have a military background.
Capitan Vicky Ryan is one of the founding members of Soldiers Helping Soldiers. She says in a lot of cases veterans wrongly believe they don’t qualify for benefits because of misconceptions. “There’s a definite reaction former members of the Canadian forces have to us, as we wear our uniforms when we are volunteering”, says Captain Ryan. “They feel a bond to us – and us to them. We act as a bridge organization, to help them connect with benefits they are entitled to – even if they’ve had just one day of service in the Canadian Forces. It brings a special joy to me and my colleagues that we can help this way in our own community.”
On behalf of everyone at The Mission, we thank Captain Ryan and everyone with Soldiers Helping Soldiers for their efforts to ease the distress of veterans in our community.
Men who enter The Mission’s 5-month LifeHouse residential addiction treatment program (usually 11 per group) live in a small house adjacent to the shelter. They often form strong bonds with one another as they share their life experiences during group counselling sessions, and also share responsibilities for cooking and cleaning the house. Sometimes there is someone in the group who – like Maurice – brings special qualities to the table.
Maurice graduated from LifeHouse in late 2016 at the age of 52. His life journey before coming to us was a hard one. He was born and raised in Vankleek Hill, and throughout his younger years he worked as a bricklayer and a high rise window cleaner. He also spent considerable time studying to become a minister, and was always reaching out to others who were struggling. But, as time went by, Maurice’s mental health deteriorated – he suffered from severe mood swings and depression. His illness eventually caused him to lose many jobs, his marriage fell apart, and he began self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t until Maurice learned about treatment programs at The Ottawa Mission that things began to turn around for him, and he is now looking forward with hope to a much better life – and one he plans to devote to helping others.
It is his strong desire to help people that, according to his counsellor at The Mission, made such a difference to the other men in his LifeHouse group. Especially during the early months of the program, the counselling, group sessions, and a great deal of soul-searching can often become overwhelming. If Maurice knew that someone was having a bad day, he would always take the time to offer whatever encouragement he could. And he always greeted everyone with what became his trademark – “Have a great day, and God bless you!”His kindness and optimistic outlook left a lasting impression on his housemates, as well as on the staff at The Mission.