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Feeding hope: the nourishing power of food and shelter

How a passion for cooking and nutritious food turned into a way of helping others

Good food nourishes more than our bodies – it feeds our hearts and minds, it allows us to pursue our dreams and to support our loved ones. Without it, every day becomes a struggle, with little energy left to do the things we must do, let alone what we dream of doing.

Today, Heidi is transforming her passion for cooking and nutritious food into a way of helping others, but it’s only become possible with the support of the Victoria Cool Aid Society, whose supportive housing was a crucial step in Heidi’s recovery. After living on and off the streets for several years while battling a lifelong addiction, today, she eyes a bright future that lets her give the gift of healthy, nutritious food to others. 

“Hunger, food security – these are real issues faced by people right here in Victoria. I want to make sure no one goes hungry, and to teach people how to prepare and cook food on their own,” she says.

A long journey 

At five years old, Heidi entered foster care, separated from her brother and baby sister, who were sent to different homes. For 12 years, she suffered emotional abuse and neglect before ageing out of care at age 17 and turning to alcohol and drug use.

Time in the Navy, with its regimented routine, kept Heidi’s life in order, but that changed when she had to leave to care for her child who has special needs. 

Returning to school and earning a degree in culinary arts launched a 15-year restaurant career – buoyed by talent and passion for ending hunger, she had found her calling. 

But when raising children and 12-hour workdays took their toll, Heidi turned to cocaine to fuel her hectic schedule.

For years she remained a functioning addict until suffering a stroke. Unable to work and suffering from severe mobility issues, Heidi found Cool Aid’s Sandy Merriman House shelter for women, and after a month of recuperating got a room of her own at Cool Aid’s Desmond House.

Now clean and living a more stable life, Heidi has moved into her own home where she continues helping others learn to cook and access nutritious food. Ready to give back, she’s working with Cool Aid on delivering a food program to help other tenants gain basic life skills.

Delivering food, and hope

When you donate to Cool Aid, you’re helping the most vulnerable people in our community –people with mental and physical health challenges, people suffering from substance use, and people on the road to recovery. Through Cool Aid’s grocery card program, hundreds of people are shopping for their own groceries and cooking their own meals. In this time of great need, you’re not only providing food for those who are hungry but also giving the gift of independence – and the gift of hope for the future. In fact, a donation of just $25 will help feed a person challenged with food insecurity for up to a week. Access to supportive housing, food and a place to cook was critical in Heidi’s recovery.

To help more people like Heidi gain skills and food security, please visit coolaid.org/donate or call 250-383-1977.