Each weekday morning, about 10 women get together in the kitchen at Cathy Wever Elementary School to prepare food for the school’s daily snack program. They chop vegetables, make sandwiches and fill bins full of healthy goodness — but most of all, they chat.
The families at the Wentworth Street school come from diverse backgrounds, but many are on tight budgets and have faced hardship. From helping them cope with mental health issues to providing a forum for parenting questions, the volunteers say their work helps them as much as the kids they’re serving.
“It’s a family outside of our own families,” said Carrie-Anne Williams, who has a son in the school’s junior kindergarten. “It’s a really good feeling.”
Williams, who has depression and anxiety, joined the group in December on the advice of friends who also volunteer. She says she’s been too unwell to work and recently faced tragedy with the death of her teenaged daughter. She says she loves that she can contribute to the community this way while also helping herself heal.
“I am in a safe environment and I feel comfortable, and I know I’m doing good,” she said. “This group helps me get up in the morning.”
The program, one of many healthy food programs at schools across the city, is proving an age-old point: food brings people together; and feeding others builds community. While many of the Cathy Wever volunteers are school parents, the kids (or grandkids, in one case) of others have long since graduated. The volunteers are now a community unto themselves.
Article and image source: Hamilton Spectator