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Kitchen Angels make hospice patients' final days better

Volunteers at Campbell House prepare food for residents every day; 'We try to mirror like they are at home'
2022-05-18 Groceries vegetables
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Step through the doors at Hospice Georgian Triangle’s Campbell House and the first thing you will notice is the mouthwatering aroma that is wafting from the kitchen.

In fact, every day, the kitchen at Campbell House is buzzing with banter, the clanging of pots and pans, and the familiar smell of a home-cooked meal as a group of women prepare food not just for patients residing in the home, but for friends and family members who are visiting as well. 

They are called the Kitchen Angels, and they truly are something special.

“You know when you have a bunch of people in the kitchen at home? It’s that same feel,” said Helen Russell, the food services and volunteer lead at Hospice Georgian Triangle. “It feels like home.”

Totalling between 45 and 55 women each week, the hospice palliative care home’s volunteer Kitchen Angels are responsible for cooking and serving three meals a day, and cleaning up, 365 days a year.

Russell said Hospice Georgian Triangle is only 50 per cent government funded and, because of that, it relies heavily on the support of volunteers.

“There is a lot of love and care, and it really flows through the whole building,” said Russell. “The compassion that they bring, the energy that they bring into the house, and the laughter.”

From chicken pot pie, meatloaf, lasagna, and sandwiches, to fish-and-chips Fridays, thanks to the Kitchen Angels, the residents have access to a home-cooked meal every day, and at all hours of the day. If someone doesn’t feel hungry, the meals are there for when they do, even if it is 2 a.m. Further, if someone has a dietary restriction or doesn’t like the meal that is cooked that day, the angels are always ready to whip up something special just for them.

“If we have it, or we can get our hands on it, then they can have it,” Russell said. “We try to mirror like they are at home.”

Everything is prepared in house by the angels and, according to Russell, “they all bring their specialties.”

While some women really enjoy making soups, others love baking, and others are just happy to be around and help with odd tasks in the kitchen. As Russell said, “They are just looking to do whatever is needed.”

“We have a chat and maybe a laugh or two, and for a short time our friends feel a little lighter in spirit, refreshed and ready to face the challenges of the day,” says volunteer Patty Barber of the interactions she has with residents.

However, volunteer Wendy Black-Mayer says it is not just the comfort and joy they can give to those at Campbell House that motivates them.

“It’s a privilege to be here and to be able to make someone’s day better,” said Black-Mayer. 

Volunteers Martha Lawrence and Linda Atkins agree. “We have both met and worked with wonderful people. Thank you for the opportunity.”

And why do they volunteer? According to Russell, this committed group of women volunteers for many reasons. Some of them have had family members spend their last days at Campbell House and wanted to give back, while others are simply motivated by the sense of purpose they get from volunteering.

“They like to give back, and for some this is how they do it,” said Russell. “They do it through food.”

Hospice Georgian Triangle started in 1987 as an all-volunteer organization. Today, the backbone of the Hospice Georgian Triangle and the Hospice Georgian Triangle Foundation is its more than 100 volunteers.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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