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When it comes to caring for and supporting people, B-J is a natural. People trust her, confide in her, and depend on her.

The second-oldest in a family of seven, B-J gained a lot of experience caring for kids growing up. She worked in a hospital newborn nursery before becoming a nanny—and an integral member of all the families she worked for.

But B-J also had a family of her own who needed her support. She and her husband separated when their two daughters were young, and B-J began supporting them on part-time wages. She needed income to pay the bills, but it was also important to her to be home with her girls.

“It wasn’t easy,” says B-J. “When we were first on our own, we had a lot of Kraft Dinner. I couldn’t afford vegetables.”

B-J’s experience is all too familiar for many single parent households, especially those headed by women. In 2021, 38 per cent of Canadian households led by single mothers were food insecure. Being the primary caregiver means single mothers can often be restricted in the types of work they can take on, and are more likely to be employed in part-time, low-wage, precarious jobs without benefits.

When B-J talks about her daughters, she exudes pride: “They have a lot of good courage. My dad passed that down to me. And I hope I’ve passed that on to them.”

Now retired, and with her daughters moved out and leading active lives of their own, B-J helps others experiencing food insecurity in her volunteer role at Hope House, a non-profit in Guelph.

B-J first went to Hope House to get food for herself. Not long after, she was volunteering in their Food Market a few days per week.

“I met all kinds of people,” B-J explains. “And I discovered that a lot of the people who come in for food feel embarrassed about asking for help. So I try to help them understand they don’t need to feel that way.”

Hope House runs incredibly supportive programs. The volunteer program that so actively engaged B-J also led directly to the development of Ease Into Work, a valuable initiative that connects community members with local businesses and partners in the broader Guelph community. 

As B-J reflects, the staff at Hope House take time to get to know the people who access their services. It’s a place where people can meet others with shared experiences, create lifelong bonds, and invaluable support systems.

Just like with the families she nannied for, B-J has built close, lasting friendships since coming to Hope House six years ago. 

When there was a fire in B-J’s apartment building and she lost most of her possessions, people in her life stepped up to help—including her friends at Hope House. She notes: “Their Programs Director, Gillian, looked after my pets while I waited to get into my new apartment.”

“Every town needs a Hope House, because it frees people to hope beyond their circumstances. They've helped so many people. There’s no judgement from anybody who works there. I think it’s a really special place.”

Hope House is located in Guelph, Ontario and is a Community Food Centre partner-in-development


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