November 16, 2018

By RACHEL HENRY

“Good evening, ladies,” chef Jody O’Malley calls out, ringing a bell.
A hush spreads across the spacious room that is filled with more than two dozen women, each with a wine glass in hand. They are present at the Culinary Studio in Waterloo to cook up something wonderful, and have a great time in the process.
Soup Sisters is a non-profit organization that has spread across Canada since its creation in Calgary in 2009. The organization takes a “night out” feel and combines it with a charitable outcome and a strong message: “Warming hearts … One bowl at a time.”
Volunteers can sign up and get together for an evening of fantastic food, wine and camaraderie all while making over 75 litres of five different kinds of soup that is donated to charities.
“It appeals to people,” Soup Sisters volunteer Norma Weiner said. “It’s a nice way to spend time with people, whether it’s a celebration like a birthday or a team-building experience.”
The women are provided with a brief knife skills lesson, which includes safety and efficiency tips. They are then assigned to cooking stations prepared with everything they’ll need, including aprons, vegetables, seasonings and knives.
The next day the soup is transported to Marillac Place and ROOF, two non-profit organizations that serve Waterloo Region, providing support for young women and youth-at-risk. The donated soup feeds 200 to 250 people.
“I can’t tell you what a relief it is to say yes to the voice on the other end of the phone,” Angela Murdoch, a representative of Marillac Place, said of the organization and the support it has garnered from Soup Sisters.
Marillac Place provides a safe haven for women ages 16 to 25 who are pregnant or have children in their care. While staying at Marillac the women are required to continue their education, budget their money to include rent and personal needs, as well as practise other necessary life skills.
ROOF, which stands for Reaching Our Outdoor Friends, aims to help youth make positive choices and end the cycle of homelessness through development of life skills. They provide four fundamentals for homeless youth and youth-at-risk: outreach, drop-in, essential services and shelter.
With so many youth entering the facilities, there is a constant flow of hungry mouths to feed.
ROOF representative Trish Harris-Tousignant said, “One of the most (important) things we do is feed youth.”
That’s where Soup Sisters comes in.
“The programs instil life skills, but they need our support,” Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran said. “It’s a way to take those young (people) under our wing.”
Support is certainly not something Soup Sisters is lacking. Since the launch fundraiser last month, it seems everyone wants to get involved.
“Our biggest problem is telling people we’re booked into January 2013. We do have a waiting list,” Weiner said.
Though the waiting list may seem long, it is well worth the wait.
First-time Soup Sisters volunteer Maggie Williamson waited months to get involved.
“It’s really great,” she said while chopping vegetables for a steaming broth. She added it’s a great opportunity to enhance the sense of community. 
Events are held once a month and usually involve about 20 participants, with both men and women welcome. For more information, visit soupsisters.org.

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