Love Grows at Shepherds of Good Hope Community Kitchen
On Saturday nights, the Shepherds of Good Hope Community Kitchen bustles with energy. People arrive early for a warm meal, a place out of the cold, and a smile from the volunteers graciously serving them.
Isabel M is one of those smiling volunteers. She’s there, without fail, every Saturday.
“I started during the pandemic. I was looking for something to do,” says Isabel.
Neither the cold, the wind, or a trucker convoy, could keep Isabel from showing up for her dinnertime shift.
“I like serving meals. I was single and didn’t like not having plans on Saturday night,” says Isabel.
Isabel’s life changed last September when she met Tom G, a retired trade show manager and local musician who grew up and worked in and around Ottawa all his life.
Tom’s wife passed away a year earlier. He wasn’t sure he’d ever find someone else.
“You’re at that age where you don’t think you’re going to have this kind of relationship again,” says Tom. “It wasn’t part of my expectation to meet someone where I’d have this kind of romantic relationship. Isabel is very beautiful. I was very attracted to her. We’ve been happy ever since we met.”
When they first met, Isabel told Tom about her commitment and growing connection to the people she serves at Shepherds. Tom was curious, joining Isabel one Saturday night. They’ve been volunteering as a couple ever since.
“He’s very calm, and I’m very energetic,” says Isabel, as Tom nods his head in agreement. “I like his company, and I’m very happy to have found someone at this stage in my life. It’s a blossoming relationship.”
Isabel was nervous about bringing Tom to Shepherds. But she knew, if the relationship was going to grow, Tom would have to accept that Saturday nights with Isabel would start at the Shepherds kitchen.
Turns out Isabel didn’t need to worry at all.
“The staff here, especially Mary, were nice towards us. It was a very welcoming environment to bring somebody new. That was a nice thing for both of us. They made us feel like teenagers.”
Mary, who has been working at Shepherds since 1999, welcomed Tom, like she does all volunteers, making him feel like part of the Shepherds family.
Tom and Isabel learned more about each other with each passing weekend.
“You see a part of the person you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” explains Tom. “It’s a charitable situation. You’re seeing a nice side of your partner that you may not see in a public context.”
Picking up on Tom’s comment, Isabel adds “We had to learn to be supportive of each other very quickly. Sometimes the exchanges with clients aren’t always easy.”
“It’s not always perfect,” she adds. “We learned we could work well in that type of environment, and we liked it.”
Throughout the year, over 200 volunteers support Shepherds at locations across the city. Barbers cut hair. Aestheticians give mani’s and pedi’s. Sandwich makers make sandwiches. Wherever there’s a need, volunteers step in, just like they have since Shepherds first started in the basement of St Brigid’s Church on February 7, 1983.
Nurturing a budding relationship takes commitment and trust. Developing that trust in a secure, supported environment, like a community soup kitchen, creates a solid foundation for any couple.
“You can find happiness in your sixties,” says Tom.
Luckily for Shepherds of Good Hope, and the people they serve, Tom and Isabel will continue sharing their newfound happiness every Saturday night in a community soup kitchen.
Interested in volunteering at Shepherds of Good Hope? Visit www.sghottawa.com/volunteer