A passion to serve

The Upper Room Soup Kitchen’s new general manager, staff, and volunteers prepare 4,000 meals per month for their clients

Walking through the doors of the Upper Room Soup Kitchen at 10:45 on a Tuesday morning I’m greeted by the delicious smell of food and the sound of laughter coming from the kitchen. “The Tuesday Girls”, as they refer to themselves, are busy getting lunch ready for the day’s clients. One of the cooks is sitting at a table cutting up a pile of onions and Tammy MacKinnon is helping a volunteer get some items organized. The place is abuzz as everyone gets ready to open the doors for lunch service.

MacKinnon is the new general manager of the Soup Kitchen, joining the team in early December 2016. She is driven to helping others and when the position opened up she knew it was right for her. “I have always had a passion for outreach in my communities. I have been hosting [monthly] Neighbourhood Cook Days for the last two years on a volunteer basis and I felt this would be a great fit for what I had already been working towards with helping those in need of food,” says MacKinnon. As I watch her interact with volunteers and clients, her passion is obvious.

In addition to employing a general manager and two part-time cooks, the Soup Kitchen relies on volunteers for meal preparations and clean-up. There are usually six volunteers that assist each day, helping with anything from chopping veggies, to preparing trays of cutlery and plates to serving food, to mopping the floors.

The “Tuesday Girls” Pauline Thomson, Judy Robblee, Harriett Campbell, and Donna Richard (not pictured) photo credit: Grace Kimpinski

The “Tuesday Girls” on Volunteering

Pauline Thomson: “I am here for the people—both those I work with and those who come here. It is easy to fall in love with the people who come here when you hear some of their stories you realize that they are great people. Also, it is wonderful to see the generosity of [the] people [who volunteer].”

Judy Robblee: “I volunteer here because I like people, and there is a need for help here. I like to be friendly and to let the people who come here know that somebody cares.”

Harriett Campbell: “I am here because I love it. I like that I am helping with Pauline and Judy, and I love the people that we get to help.”

Donna Richard (cook). “I love the clients. I love the people. They are like family.”

“It’s a great place to volunteer. The clients who come here are worthy of your time and energy to make it a place of warmth and cheer. Providing healthy food is our goal but providing a warm, happy, safe place for our clients is most beneficial and being part of that is an incredible privilege,” says MacKinnon.

MacKinnon explains that clients of the Soup Kitchen face a variety circumstances. “[We see] individuals with addictions and mental health issues, people who are unemployed, people who are on social assistance and don’t have enough money to get through the month. There are a few who come for the social aspect as well.”

In her short time at the Soup Kitchen, MacKinnon has learned a lot about the people she helps. “I have a much softer heart for those who need to panhandle and for those who walk the streets all day. Although [some] people say we don’t have ‘homeless people’ on PEI, we do have a lot who couch-surf and that means they have nowhere to call their own and nowhere to go throughout the day. ”

Upper room Soup Kitchen Snapshot

Location: 101 Richmond Street, Charlottetown

Operating Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 am – 5:30 pm / Weekends 9:00 – 1:00

Lunch: 11:30-12:30; Supper: 4:30-5:30 (with doors opening to clients ½ hour prior to meal service)

To volunteer: Call Tammy MacKinnon at 902-892-1995

Expectations of volunteers: Come with an open heart and be respectful of all clients who use our kitchen.

Who can use the Soup Kitchen: Anyone who has the need for a safe space and a warm meal. No questions asked, no explanations necessary.

As the colder weather takes hold, the Soup Kitchen is right in the throes of its busiest time of year. “We do our best not to close,” MacKinnon explains, “but for the safety of our clients, our staff, and our volunteers there are times we need to close due to bad weather.” Closure is always the last option considered. People need to eat, they need to get out of the cold and warm up for a little while.

After chatting with MacKinnon and some of the volunteers, I pause and look around at the Soup Kitchen. As the clients come in and sit down, each of them is greeted with a smile and a kind word, and conversations are shared as the final preparations for lunch happen. Being in operation for 30+ years and serving upwards of 4000 meals a month, it’s clear to me that the Soup Kitchen is an important Island organization and that everyone standing in that room is exactly where they belong.

About Grace Kimpinski

Grace's passion to be creative combined with her drive to get things done make her an invaluable member of the Salty team. As the sole-support parent to a teenaged... bottomless-pit... er... son, she strives to be a 'smart' food shopper. Although she's not keen on writing about herself, she is very keen on eating a great BBQ'd meal in summer and a hearty stew in winter.

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