In this photo: Heather Verhulp, Katie Milanovich, Victoria Mckeown, Javier Triana, Will Triana, and Reception House residents.
Every month or so, residents at 101 David st, our temporary accommodation site for newly arrived refugees, get to sit back and allow others to do the cooking. The community meal host program recruits neighbours, service groups or others to bring and share a meal and game as a gesture of welcome.
“Community meals are a great snapshot of Canada’s hospitality!” says Heather Verhulp, meal host volunteer. Heather first hosted a community meal in April 2018 with members of C3 KW – formerly Risen City Church – and has been back 3 more time since!
“It’s not just about the food, but about the interactions and connections you make during and after”
– Heather Verhulp
“Growing up, my family relied on others to help us put food on the table” recalls Heather of her childhood. Seeing neighbours in her small town volunteer their time and resources to help her family out inspired Heather to pursue her lifelong passion of cooking for a cause.
With a little help from Kraft Dinner and Hamburger Helper, Heather became head chef for her family at the age of nine. After years of experimental meals on her family, Heather attended college in Barrie, Ontario to become a chef.
Heather was drawn to community meal hosting for the opportunity to cook for people from diverse backgrounds and welcome newcomers with a home cooked meal. “It’s not just about the food, but about the interactions and connections you make during and after” she says.
“For me community is wherever you are at in the moment.”
Heather’s first community meal took place just after Waterloo Region was hit with an unseasonably late freezing rain storm. There were a few families that arrived just days before the storm hit.
“It was the first time many had ever seen ice or snow in their life!” she recounts. Despite the language barrier, she was able to share pictures of her snow covered drive-way and other Canadian winter treasures. Their reactions were complete shock and awe! It broke the “ice” so to speak.
These are moments that Heather cherishes and are the reasons why she continues to host community meals. Heather hopes to continue her work with community meals at Reception House and at other organizations where she can use her cooking to bring people together.
“For me community is wherever you are at in the moment.” she says. Thank you Heather and friends for choosing Reception House as a place to build community!
Want to become a meal host? Visit: receptionhouse.ca/communitymeal