Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 pm, between 70-90 people from all walks of life gather at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – dinner is served.
The meals not only nourish, they help build community and friendships among everyone who enters from single moms to homeless area residents and refugees to seniors and working poor families trying to save money so they can pay their rents. The dinner program aims to restore dignity and choice.
“We serve [people] instead of them having to wait in a line with hands out,” says Courtney van den Boogaard, Manager of Communications & Community Engagement at the Kitchen. And the food is just like you’d get at home – spaghetti and salad followed by brownies and ice cream for dessert.
This welcoming atmosphere creates a sense of safety and belonging, which pays big dividends when it comes to people caring for one another.
Acts of local love
One Kitchen regular had 24 hours-notice to move from one apartment to another. At dinner she told people about her need. A table mate with a car helped her move the next day. A senior says he’s always grateful to see his community of people and the friends he has made, while the meals and food pantry program supplements the little food he can afford on his limited income.
The Kitchen opened in 2011 when City of Surrey and the RCMP approached Pacific Community Church to provide meals for the homeless after another organization closed their kitchen. Word of good grub spread and soon a new full-size commercial kitchen was built with community support and a grant from the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society. Today, the Kitchen serves 12,000 meals a year. But the need remains high.
Surrey community champion meets Hi Neighbour
Enter life-long Surrey resident, local business owner and community builder extraordinaire, Jen. She has been involved in the Kitchen for the past six years through the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program, which is run out of the premises.Every year, the Hamper Program helps over 600 people – kids, families and seniors with toys and food.
In addition, Jen has been involved with United Way’s Clayton Heights Hi Neighbour Initiative through her support of Clayton Days, an open air fair, her contributions to the Local Love Fund and the monthly Clayton Community Luncheon for those 50+.
“When Jen asked if United Way would help support the Community Kitchen and Hamper Program, we said yes because the work they are doing is so inspiring,” says Gabriel Avelar, Assistant Director of Volunteer Mobilization at United Way.
United Way’s $10,000 Local Love grant to the Kitchen, made possible through generous funding from CUPE Local 402, will not only help with food supplies but will also foster a greater sense of community and belonging for those attending the dinners regularly.
“We are excited to support the Cloverdale Community Kitchen and the Christmas Hamper program. We would not have known about this amazing work without Jen,” says Gabriel. “This is exactly how a community is built.”
Momentum for community change
CUPE Local 402, which represents Surrey City Workers, is also happy to be onboard beyond just funding. The union began supporting United Way projects in Surrey in 2014, including Avenues of Change and the Clayton Heights Little Libraries. The newly relocated union office plans on being a good neighbour by volunteering at the Kitchen among other forms of support.
“CUPE Local 402 has a great history of supporting numerous non-profits within Surrey. It’s our way of giving back to the City so many of us call home,” says Jeannie Kilby, President of CUPE Local 402 and United Way Board Member. “A healthy, inclusive and caring community is important to all Surrey City Workers.”
Local love starts right where you live, work and play
“Many volunteers have told me that they are grateful for a place to give back,” Courtney says. “They have their own community with the other volunteers and love interacting with our guests. It brings meaning and purpose to their lives and are especially grateful to help the people in their own neighbourhoods.”
“I have loved working with United Way’s Hi Neighbour Initiative. I love seeing people being able to do more with their vision for community to make this world a better place,” Jen says. “I love the saying it takes a village to raise a child but it takes many people in a community working together to make a great city! I love seeing what United Way is putting in place to connect community and bring us all together.”
Interested in supporting Hi Neighbour and giving back to the Clayton Heights and Cloverdale communities, contact Community Engagement Specialist Misha Golston at MishaG@uwlm.ca
The Hi Neighbour Initiative connects committed, passionate individuals like Jen and organizations like the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, CUPE Local 402 and helps them make a difference in their community in ways that matter most to them.
Hi Neighbour Initiatives are underway in eight neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland including Cedar Valley in Mission, Clayton Heights in Surrey, Edmonds in Burnaby, Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver, Sardis in Chilliwack, Sunset in Vancouver and Willoughby in Langley.