Church Kitchen Serves More Than Soup

Kitchen volunteers Helga, Kathy, Joanne & Mike
Kitchen volunteers Helga, Kathy, Joanne & Mike

Last week Linda and I visited the soup kitchen run by the Keremeos Community Church. We were sitting at a table with Mike Andersen, a man with the physique of a heavy weight boxer, but not the intimidating demeanor. “The 4 men on the other side of the room wouldn’t have eaten today if they had not come in,” he said. He smiled and waved to a couple walking through the door, then turned back to us. “We serve soup to the community every Thursday. Some come because they’re hungry. Others hope someone will accept them and listen to them. People also come to support us in showing a friendly face and outreached hand to the community. We’re happy to feed them all.”

Looking around, I saw microphones along one side of the spacious room, an indication that on Sundays this is a worship area. Today casually dressed people of all ages were sitting at 4 long tables, chatting animatedly and laughing. A few men wore caps, suggesting the dress code is relaxed. People seemed at ease, enjoying the company and the soup.

I had sensed the welcoming atmosphere the moment we walked through the door. Kathy greeted us warmly and guided us to a table. She returned with bowls of steaming chicken vegetable soup. Also a bun, coffee, and dessert. She rises early each soup day and bakes the delicious white buns.

Mike Andersen
Mike Andersen

Mike, a farmer for 20 years, has broken horses and trained trail horses. He still rides his large sturdy mule. This morning he had arrived at the kitchen at 8:00 to prepare the soup. “The vegetables we use are fresh,” he said. “We comply with all Health Branch regulations.” Noticing that my bowl was empty he asked, “would you like a re-fill?”

The volunteers running the kitchen are a committed and diverse lot. Joanne said, “I’ve been where some of the people are. The church rescued our family. Now I want to give something back. It’s good to see people low in life feeling loved and accepted.” It was her first day in the kitchen.

George Spencer
George Spencer

Like Mike, George Spencer has been there from the beginning. Before Keremeos, he worked 40 years as a bartender and waiter in a Vancouver hotel. “Alcohol, crack cocaine and crystal meth ruled my life those days,” he told us. “I had tried recovery programs without success. It was God who delivered me. I came to Keremeos to escape that scene. I agreed to come to this church only if my dog was allowed in. That was ok with the church.” Once introverted, he laughingly gives slinging beer credit for preparing him to interact easily with the people who come for soup.

There’s a story behind each person who comes in,” Mike said. “Some have serious needs.

Today a young man walked out with a jacket that was donated this morning. Some rarely get out of their home, except when they come here. Everyone needs to feel accepted and loved.”

A donation box is placed in the opening to the kitchen, not where people will easily see it. “There’s no requirement to put anything in,” George said. “Those who can usually do. Also, some ladies from local churches contribute desserts. We get financial help from individuals and businesses. Valu Plus donates food. Our costs are pretty much covered.”

The emphasis seems not to be on proselytizing. “We just want to reach out to people and touch their lives,” George said. “It’s by our example we want to show them the love of Jesus.” I noticed a couple wave at him as they were about to walk out the door. He smiled and waved, then turned his attention back to us. “Sometimes people are dealing with difficult situations and they ask us to pray for them.”

They’ve been serving meals to 40 to 50 people between 11 am and 1 pm two days a week since February of this year. Mondays it’s sandwiches and Thursdays it’s soup and a bun. For Christmas Day they will move their operation to the more spacious Seniors Centre and serve a special meal to individuals who need a place where they will feel welcome and not be alone.

We found the excitement of the soup kitchen volunteers contagious and uplifting. Judging by the ebb and flow of voices and laughter, they are providing much more than just physical nourishment.

Dan Twizell And His 1929 Dodge

Dan Twizell
Dan Twizell

At the recent Harvest Dinner in Hedley I introduced myself to a man with a luxurious, white beard. He said, “My name is Dan Twizell. I’m the owner of that 1929 Dodge parked across the street.”

A week later Dan came to our home for coffee, driving the Dodge. In response to my question he said “I chased the car 10 years. The owner didn’t want to part with it but I called him every 6 months. Finally he agreed to sell. It came with only the body, windows and wheels. No motor, running gear or interior.”

I had never done painting, upholstery or body work. My friend Leroy Fague and I spent 13,000 hours over 5 years. I drive the Dodge everywhere. I don’t want it to be a garage queen.”

Dan Twizell & his 1929 Dodge
Dan Twizell & his 1929 Dodge

Dan was born near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where his parents were homesteading a small acreage. Family income was meager and at an early age Dan began learning the importance of making sound decisions and being independent. “There was always a 30-30 Winchester at the back door,” he recalled. When he was 5 his father instructed, “don’t fool around with it. If you’re going to hunt, be sure you don’t need to use more than one shell.”

One day his father said, “we’re going to starve to death here. I’ll have to go west to look for work.” Two months later he sent train tickets for the family to join him in New Westminster, BC.

For me it wasn’t good timing,” Dan remembers. “I was just completing grade one. The school made me repeat the grade. They considered us farm kids who didn’t know much.”

For a kid who supposedly didn’t know much, he had a lively and practical mind. “On my 8th birthday I was given a wristwatch.” he said. “I went upstairs to my bedroom and took it apart.” Like many boys, myself included, he wanted to know what was inside. However, unlike most boys, he put it back together and it worked!

At the senior secondary level he opted for the trade school, an indication of his preference for a career that didn’t require sitting behind a desk in an office. “I heard they placed students in practical work assignments, like a tire shop and a dairy farm. I wanted the experience.”

When his parents bought the popular take-out Snack Shack near Aldergrove, he got plenty of cooking experience. “My parents worked there all day,” he said, “so when I came home, I needed to prepare supper for the family. My dad told me to make meals from scratch. Even now I do most of the cooking. I’m a throw it together cook.”

Upon completing high school he demonstrated he was a “roll up your sleeves and go to work” type of guy. He went to a garage to apply for a job. Seeing that the owner was busy, he removed his jacket and began pumping gas. Two hours later the owner said “o.k. you’re on the payroll as of a couple of hours ago.”

As a young man he drifted into beer drinking associations. “In time, I saw that the crowd I was with was becoming dependent on the pub. I wanted to get away from the pub so without telling anyone, I moved to another town.”

In his mid 20’s, he applied for a job as a heavy duty mechanic. “I was the happiest guy in the world when they made me a field mechanic. Often I’d come to work and there was a note telling me a float plane was waiting to take me to a job. I’d ask the pilot where we were going. I stayed with the company 30 years until I retired at age 56.”

Asked about his greatest success, he replied, “my wife Judy. We attended the same school but I didn’t meet her until we were both at a mutual friend’s Christmas Eve party.” They’ve been together 36 years, enjoying lots of camping, hunting and fishing.

In 2004 they moved to their present property, which they named Crazy Goat Acres, on Old Hedley Road. It was here he rebuilt the Dodge. Regrettably, the goats needed to be sold recently. Judy has MS now and walks with a cane. Even so, with chickens, ducks, 3 dogs, a horse, a donkey, and the Dodge, they’re pretty content.

World Series Provides Lesson For Life

Original caption: General view of Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. October 1966 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Original caption: General view of Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. October 1966 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

With baseball’s World Series approaching, hordes of loyal Canadians are once again placing faith in the hometown Toronto Blue Jays. I’m not one of them, even though I’m aware die-hard Jay fans may deem me to be unpatriotic, possibly even treasonous. I just can’t dredge up the fervour of my friend Abe who complains to his wife when they are invited out on a Jays game day.

For me baseball lost much of its mystique when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to L.A. at the end of the 1957 season. Almost since childhood, I experienced a sense of awe and near reverence for them. Each year I hoped Duke Snyder, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella would lead a winning crusade against the hutzpah of the mighty New York Yankees. I got my wish only once, in 1955.

Recently my interest in baseball was somewhat rekindled by Jim Reisler’s, “The Best Game Ever”, an account of the 1960 World Series that matched the fabled, trophy rich Yankees against the underdog Pittsburgh Pirates. “Cinderella” teams like the Pirates still excite and inspire me, even though they aren’t likely to win the championship. I like them for their grit and unwillingness (or inability) to acknowledge that their soaring hopes will be dashed in the end.

The Yankees came with a proud history. Their teams had already won 18 Series, beginning in 1923. The Pirates had last reached the famed pinnacle of baseball success 35 years ago. They had no players of heroic stature to give them the resolve to battle legendary superstars like outfielders Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, catcher Yogi Berra, and pitcher Whitey Ford. The magical Yankees had a reputation for finding a way to win. The lowly Pirates could have wondered if, in placing them in the hands of this formidable team, fate had decided to punish them for some forgotten misdeed in their less than stellar past.

In spite of the intense psychological pressure that came with playing New York, the Pirates refused to quake or crack. They didn’t think of quitting even when they went scoreless in two games. They didn’t despair at the knowledge Yankee sluggers were hitting more home runs, 10 in total, compared to their 4. At times the lethal bats of the Yankees were driving in runs almost at will, seeming to portend impending disaster for the less powerful Pirates. Still they refused to fold.

I pay attention to the world of sports, at least in part, because at times there are lessons I can apply in my own life. In this David and Goliath contest, I’m impressed by the Pirates’ capacity and will to battle tenaciously against a vastly more talented team. I’m reminded of the words of a black actress who had grown up in a big city ghetto. Personal experience had convinced her that “it’s always too soon to quit.” This is particularly true when we face challenges in health, relationships, finances or employment. As a friend once told me, “something unexpected can happen to change the odds.”

In this epic contest the Yankees had 91 hits to the Pirates 60. Their team batting average was .336. The Pittsburgh average was a meager .256. Mantle’s personal average was .400. Berra batted .318 Howard’s average was .462.

The Pirates hit a lot of singles. They benefited from solid pitching and fielding, and an unflinching determination to battle on to the last inning and the umpire’s final “out!” At the end of the sixth game, the series was tied at 3 games each. Compared to New York’s hefty margins in their wins, the Pirates margins seemed anemic.

Now, in the seventh and final game, the Yankees had tied the score in the first half of the ninth inning. The pressure was intense as the Pirates’ second baseman Bill Mazeroski strode purposefully to the plate. He was not known as a home run threat, but his bat connected solidly and he smashed a rising line drive toward the left field fence. Fans watched, scarcely breathing, as the ball soared upward and over the wall, the only game 7 “walk off” home run in World Series history. The Pirates erupted in wild jubilation at having won. The shocked Yankees stood in disbelief.

Later Mickey Mantle said, “We scored 55 runs to their 27. The best team lost.” In baseball, and in life, “it’s always too soon to quit.”

Mazeroski's Home Run
Mazeroski’s Home Run

Candace Has Run!


During my years working with young offenders at the One Way Adventure Foundation in Hedley, we at times had students run away, especially from the Residential Attendance Program (RAP). The students in RAP were sent by a judge and were deemed among the most difficult and devious. When they arrived, most were burdened by a history of failure, a gnawing sense of despair.

Pretty 15 year old Candace was in this program and when I heard on my 2-way radio that she had just run, I was disappointed but not particularly surprised. Possibly the prettiest female student ever assigned to RAP, at times she was also the loneliest and saddest. The referring probation officer had expressed concern she was drifting inexorably into drug using associations and a criminal culture. The judge said, “By sending you to Hedley, I’m giving you a chance to think about your life.”

From the beginning, Candace exhibited a volatile emotional state. In her happy moments she brushed her black shoulder length hair until it shone in the Hedley sun. At such times she wore clean jeans and usually a white blouse. Her effervescent laughter lifted the spirits of those around her. In these happy moments, she sparkled and could have been a successful beauty queen contestant. On group outings to Penticton, men sometimes gazed at her unabashedly.

Now dusk was already approaching. She must have hoped she could elude us in the coming darkness. Almost certainly her plan was to get to the # 3 highway, which passed through our community. With her attractive face and pleasing figure, any trucker would be quick to stop.

Fortunately she didn’t get that far. “She’s on the rock bluff overlooking the highway,” the voice on the radio announced. “Threatening to jump.”

Already I saw her slim figure high on the bluff, facing away from me toward the other side where several staff were gathered, anxiously looking upward. From this high perch I faintly heard her voice, tinged with desperate despondency. “You come up and I’ll jump!” Strenuous urging to come down might cause her to become unhinged mentally and emotionally. She needed time. I realized though that even if we waited, inner turmoil might compel her to leap.

Intent on keeping those on the other side of the bluff under surveillance, she had not noticed me. Realizing I was out of her line of sight, I began climbing up the unstable shale, proceeding carefully so I wouldn’t send chunks of rock clattering down.

After climbing steadily for about 10 minutes, my upper body was at a level where I could see her standing, no more than 4 meters away. Not wanting her to think I might attempt to seize her, I didn’t ascend higher.

When she ceased shouting down at the workers, I said quietly, “Candace, I’m here. I won’t come closer.”

Surprised, she turned to face me, then sat down resignedly on a large rock. “It’s no use Art,” she said. “I’m tired of trying. It’s too hard. No one cares.” A tear trickled slowly down one cheek. I knew the workers closest to her cared deeply, but we were not her family. “My mom and sisters have come once in 3 months. The farther away I am, the better they like it.” She brushed away the tear.

You’re very special to everyone here,” I said.

Without my family, I have nothing.” She turned toward the darkening valley. “Don’t come close,” she warned. “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Although I felt she had come to trust me somewhat during the past 3 months, she was now shutting me out. The workers below realized someone was attempting to engage her and had grown silent. I was concerned that once darkness settled in, her gloom would become more intense. Sensing she had drifted into a realm beyond my reach, I whispered a desperate silent prayer. Even now I don’t know if I expected an answer. “Candace,” I said. “I’ve been asking God to put his arms around you and keep you safe.”

She sat unresponsive for a long moment and I wondered if she had heard my words. Then, in the fading light I saw her rise and silently come in my direction. Not knowing what to expect, I stepped aside on the shale. She passed and cautiously began descending. Candace had found hope for another day.

Through An Artist’s Lens

Harvey Donahue, artist
Harvey Donahue, artist

I’m convinced local Similkameen artist Harvey Donahue views the world through a very different lens than most of us. Where we might see only an abandoned house bleached by the sun, or an ancient, decrepit logging truck left to rust in the woods, Harvey is likely to see unique beauty. For him these relics of the past could be worthy of an honoured place on his canvas. “Old houses can be beautiful,” he told Linda and me. “When I see one, I’m inspired to paint.”

Photo of Bill Robinson's cabin, taken Jan. 2015
Photo of Bill Robinson’s cabin, taken Jan. 2015

I first heard from Harvey almost 2 years ago after I wrote about Bill Robinson’s iconic cabin along the Sumallo River in Manning Park. “I painted that cabin and the outbuilding before they fell into disrepair,” he said. “I’d like to send you a copy of the original.” That was the beginning of a phone relationship until he visited our home two weeks ago. On that occasion he surprised us with the framed, original painting of the snow bedecked Robinson cabin and outbuilding. For some reason known only to himself, he very generously presented it to Linda and myself. It is likely the best representation of that scene in existence today. It’s a gift we prize highly.

Being raised in Lac Ste. Anne, a Metis village in Alberta, very likely played a key role in the formation of how Harvey views the scenes and people around him. Now age 80, he retains vivid memories and images of those early years. He recounted them as though talking about individual mental snapshots from his past. “I started trapping when I was about 7 or 8. When my uncle moved away, I took over his trapline. Mostly I trapped weasels and sent the skins to a company in Edmonton. There was an annual pilgrimage of Metis people to our village. Some Cree came too. I attended school only until I completed grade 10,” he said. “Metis youths were encouraged to drop out after grade 8. We were called half breeds. I grew up feeling shame at being Metis. I used to tell people I was French. I remember that my dad had a few cows, some chickens and a garden.”

Although there wasn’t money for art lessons, he began painting at age 10. “When I was 14,” he remembers, “I painted a mermaid luring a ship onto the rocks. I still have that painting.”

His negative view of the Metis heritage began to shift at about age 20. “I decided I should be responsible for my existence. I began studying my Metis heritage and learned that my grandfather Gabriel Balcourt supported Louis Riel. He is listed on a plaque naming supporters.”

Harvey’s first wife was Metis and they had 4 children before she passed away. As he matured, his appreciation of the Metis heritage blossomed. “I became proud of being Metis,” he said. After moving to the Lower Mainland, he started a Metis organization and built it to 500 members. He is gratified that it is still functioning.

Harvey Donahue with Metis flag in the background
Harvey Donahue with Metis flag in the background

Harvey believes the Metis heritage shaped him. His life experiences, including the early discrimination, seem to have given him an understanding that we should not be quick to discount or discard our past. I sensed he has come to a deep realization that a historic structure or event represents what was important to people at an early time and place. It tells us about their culture, values and life experiences. It’s a connection with our past.

When I see a scene that is likely to disappear, I take a picture and paint it,” he said. “I paint heritage scenes so they won’t be lost to the next generation.”

As an example he told us about one painting that depicts an old truck standing near a grove of trees. “Shortly after I completed that painting,” he told us, “the trees were cut down.” Sometimes he adds something to a painting. One of my favourite scenes is of the one way bridge in Princeton. He placed his own pickup truck in this picture.

Painting by Harvey Donahue of Princeton Bridge, with his Dodge pickup in the foreground.
Painting by Harvey Donahue of Princeton Bridge, with his Dodge pickup in the foreground.

Harvey views the Similkameen Valley with the watchful, observant eyes of an artist. “When the sun rises in the east,” he said, “you see subtle colours in the west.” He paused and then added, “art and music are important. They help us appreciate life, the past and the present, that exists all around us.”