Mustard Seed Meals
For several years now, volunteers in Edmonton have been cooking in large quantities to serve dinners to the clients of the Mustard Seed.
The Mustard Seed is a safe and supportive place where people experiencing poverty and homelessness can have their immediate needs met through basic services on a drop-in basis. The organization aims to help people begin to heal and grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for a better life down the road.
About four times a year, a group of our Foundation volunteers gathers in Mustard Seed’s kitchen for about three hours to accomplish everything from set up, cooking and serving a quality meal, chatting with the diners, right through to a proper cleanup of the kitchen at the end of the night.
The most recent meal they made was on March 7, 2019.
“We made Caesar salad, oven-roasted seasoned chicken breast, croutons with dill and olive oil, and white rice,” says Sanghee Hong, a civil engineering technologist at the Edmonton branch. “We also served buttered buns and two-bite brownies for dessert.”
Sanghee (pictured at left, with her friend, Hewon) has been participating in this initiative for the last two years, and led the organization of this particular evening.
“We all lead this event,” clarifies Sanghee. “People like Bruce Drake, Anton Bester and Mark Taylor normally volunteer for the hardest work – the dishes – and let the rest of us take lighter tasks that have the most joyful moments of sharing happiness.”
Bruce Drake, a project manager for Urban Systems Surveys and the Edmonton branch’s Foundation core connector (pictured right), predicted Sanghee would spread the credit for the initiative’s success to colleagues.
“Sanghee did a fantastic job organizing the evening, though she will probably be too humble to admit it,” says Bruce.
Deborah, the Mustard Seed’s meal facilitator, has become a reliable partner to the Foundation team, supporting their ability to make the evening’s activities go smoothly.
“She always plans a special meal for the volunteers to prepare, and shows great caring toward Urban Systems employees, their friends and families,” says Sanghee.
“There are also special team members like Jeff Ku, Jared Halter, Peter Mandziuk and Meaghan Joliceur,” Sanghee continues to commend her colleagues. “They are the ones always keen to raise their hands and fill vacant positions whenever we’re low on volunteers. We can always rely on Judi Corno from our Kamloops office to send event funds on time, and she includes kind words to encourage our team.”
Sanghee’s highlight for the evening was the seamless cooperation within the diverse team of volunteers.
“No matter the language challenges from non-English speakers, or the range of ages from one of our colleagues’ not-yet-born baby to another colleagues’ mom, and all of the different backgrounds, we all share a great appreciation of the opportunities we are living with and recognize our capacity to help the community and develop stronger bonds within our group,” shares Sanghee.
Water resources engineer, Nicolas Abarca, and his wife, Jenny, were among the volunteers.
“It’s always good to be able to give something back to our community, and the Mustard Seed program allows us to do just that,” shares Nicolas. “The entire night is a blast, especially when we get to serve the meal and interact with the folks. It’s a humbling and life-changing experience.”
Geomatics project associate, Jingjing Dou, has brought her boyfriend James to volunteer at the Mustard Seed many times. On this occasion, she also brought her mom, Yumei, who is visiting from China and doesn’t speak English.
“It was a brand new experience for my mom,” says Jingjing. “She learnt some words like ‘soy sauce’ and ‘rice’ and said she could do this every day!”
Others volunteering on that evening were Brendan Kelly and Teri Lefebvre.
Over the years, this initiative has become a very important one for the Edmonton team, and they feel a particular commitment and responsibility to participate in it.
“This program couldn’t be available if no one wanted to share their time and effort volunteering for it,” says Sanghee. “Fortunately, so many of our colleagues show their interest and kindness towards this event.”
Continuing to be humble about the effort it takes to organize volunteers and ensure the success of a meal at the Mustard Seed, Sanghee shares how she feels about being involved.
“Scheduling volunteering dates with the Mustard Seed and inviting members to volunteer is the simplest slice of the bigger pie. The greatest part is to share this event together with colleagues and their friends and families. It makes us bond strongly and share our warmth with people that might not receive much on a normal day. I always feel grateful to join in on this opportunity.”