Life is marked by relationships, and to Karen, one of our beloved volunteers who runs the Collaborative Kitchen at the 1010 Centre; relationships are significant for people’s growth.

At the 1010 Centre, the Collaborative Kitchen Program gives residents an opportunity to learn new recipes, develop skills, share life experiences, build community and bond with one other.

Residents at the 1010 Centre come from different walks of life, and when they attend the Collaborative Kitchen for the first time, they are often apprehensive. As they engage with others and take part in the preparation and cooking, their fears subside and their cooking experience becomes enjoyable.

Building community in the kitchen

The program, which takes place once every two weeks, can accommodate up to six participants in a single session. So far, nearly 40 participants have attended the cooking sessions and some of the residents are now regular attendees.

The community building that occurs during the cooking sessions cannot be overlooked. Some residents confide in Karen and tell her how cooking by themselves makes them feel lonely. But when they are in the company of others, they feel better.

Exploring the recipe sheets excites the participants, especially, when they identify a particular dish. Some recall how a certain dish is cooked back in their hometowns and smile at the beautiful memory as they share it passionately with others.

Cooking amazing meals to bring home

Under Karen’s guidance, residents cook simple, healthy and nutritious meals from scratch, which they can freeze to eat later in the comfort of their own homes. “The enthusiasm with which residents approach cooking is astounding,” says Karen, and each participant takes home up to eight meals.

Making their way to individual work stations at the kitchen, they carefully wash, cut, dice and mix vegetables, herbs and other ingredients. Like eager students awaiting the instruction and mentorship of a teacher on an assignment, the residents look up to Karen with great enthusiasm for support and encouragement as they prepare the dishes. So far, the dishes they’ve prepared include southwestern casserole, enchiladas and pad Thai. The sounds of laughter and lively conversations between the residents and Karen are infectiously uplifting and motivating to witness.

Once the cooking is finished and the meals are packed into containers, the group sits down to share a meal prepared by Karen.

Volunteers feel inspired to help others

When asked what inspires her to lead the Collaborative Kitchen, Karen replies, “We do not develop in a vacuum, but in a community with others. Residents at the 1010 Centre, just like everybody else, need to be accepted and loved for who they are.” She says she believes that investing in their lives through food and cooking lessons is her calling from God and an extension of how she lives at home. She describes her interaction with The Mustard Seed staff and residents as “wonderful, enjoyable and rewarding.”

“The Bible commands us to be hospitable, and one way to do that is by sharing life through food with others,” says Karen.

Karen dreams of seeing residents use the skills they learn in the Collaborative Kitchen to further their own community and relationships outside the kitchen.

One of our core values at The Mustard Seed is Christ-Centredness. Being Christ-Centred requires that we show kindness to others, support to those who are hurting and empowerment to those who are weak. Through various services and initiatives, at The Mustard Seed, our goal is, to build community, grow hope and support change for the men and women battling homelessness and poverty in our province.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9