Culinary Comfort - Salvation Army Canada

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    Culinary Comfort

    For these dedicated Salvation Army volunteers, the way to a person's heart is through his stomach February 4, 2011
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends

    Adding Flair to Sally Ann Fare

    Dressed in a fashionable chef's black hat, jacket and slacks, Vipushan Karunanithi prepares five-to-10-course dinners for $75 and up per person in chic neighbourhood haunts in Windsor, Ont. The 41-year-old, whose father was also a chef, loves simple dishes with essential flavours that stand out—jalapeno peppers, cumin and cilantro are part of the preparation—and thinks fresh, local flavours are best.

    Still, his latest effort in food—directing the kitchen at The Salvation Army's Community and Rehabilitation Centre in downtown Windsor—has become the most fulfilling of all.

    Originally from Sri Lanka, Vipushan has worked in catering for several years. Business has been so good, in fact, that he'd been thinking about giving back. So he talked with Linda Wilson, who directs the Windsor Salvation Army community and family services, when she recently visited the church Vipushan attends.

    “This is what I do,” he told her. “How can I help?”

    Within days, Vipushan was teaching life-skill cooking classes, showing how to stock a pantry and prepare wholesome meals on a budget. Encouraged to work full-time, he began in earnest, helping prepare 150 meals daily for residents, staff and volunteers.

    “I like everything,” a co-worker commented of his cuisine. “It's the taste. It's the quality. It's the look. It's good.”

    Residents think so, too. The hash browns spiced with cardamom are a hit, as is the spinach salad, with strawberries, red onion, olive oil, a little lime and black pepper.

    No menu is posted ahead of time—to add curiosity and perhaps a dash of intrigue.

    Good food accomplishes good things, Vipushan explains. “If people say they don't like food, they're lying. Food is important.”

    Life may not give people many choices, but Vipushan believes at least food can be a good experience.
    “People are people. It doesn't matter what you have. It's what's inside.”

    —Ted Whipp in The Windsor Star

    Filling Hungry Hearts and Stomachs

    It's Friday evening in the parking lot of Edmonton's South Side Memorial Chapel. The night is dark and quiet, populated only by a few figures waiting in the shadows, watching the clock on the chapel's sign creep to 7:30.

    Then, a white van rolls into the parking lot, spilling bright light and a half-dozen yellow-jacketed volunteers from its doors. Folding chairs and tables are set up, and paper cups are stacked next to a carafe of hot chocolate.

    It's suppertime for a group that otherwise might not eat at all tonight.

    “It's heartwarming to pull into the parking lot and see people waiting for us, especially on cold nights,” says Sharon Stam, tending three huge pots of vegetable-beef stew. Sharon is one of more than two dozen volunteers with The Salvation Army's street ministry program, which hits the streets three nights a week in a rolling kitchen, serving up hearty meals to the neighbourhood's needy.

    The program has been going strong for five years and is still expanding.

    Janet Petersen, a longtime volunteer who now leads the ministry, credits the growth partly to The Salvation Army's reputation.

    “Over the last five years, we've made relationships with the people, and they've come to trust us and rely on us,” she says.

    Lorne is a recovering drug addict who has lived on the streets for seven years. He's started to turn his life around by securing a full-time job, but until he starts work he still eats at the mobile kitchen, as he has for the past three years. “They've been a big help keeping me alive,” he says. “They've kept my hopes up, knowing there's people out there supporting me, backing me.”

    “We try to meet more than just the hunger—if there are other needs, we try to accommodate them,” says Sharon.

    So, along with hot meals and bags of sandwiches and granola bars to take away, the ministry provides clothes and items such as toothbrushes and lip balm, as well as a sympathetic ear for people who are often lonely.

    Not all of the people the ministry helps are homeless.

    “There are lots of people who are working, but don't have much left over after they pay their rent,” says Janet.

    Wayne, a homeless drug addict and one of the ministry's occasional guests, finds staying in shelters draining and prefers to support himself with panhandling, occasional work and—when he can't afford meals—a bit of help from The Salvation Army.

    “Living on the street is hard work,” he says as he digs into a bowl of vegetable-beef stew. “I needed this. I'm hungry.”

    It's another typical night for Wayne—and for Dave Stam, a lawyer and longtime ministry volunteer. He's glad to carry on The Salvation Army's goal of supporting the less fortunate. “This is part of a deeper commitment to our faith,” he says. “Our denomination's historical roots are in helping our fellow man, and though times have changed, this is an extension of that.”

    —Taylor Bendig in The Edmonton Journal

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