Hope in Action

June 2021

Author Leo Buscaglia once wrote, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

This month, meet Julie and Ingrid, who are using their skills and talents to help Ray of Hope’s guests and clients build better lives.

Saddles and psychology

New program manager Julie Brown brings a unique skill set to Youth Employment

In Ray of Hope’s Youth Employment (YE) program, participants learn the importance of developing transferable skills — talents and abilities that can be used in many different jobs and career paths. You never know when you might need a particular skill, perhaps in a role you never expected.

That’s certainly the case for Julie Brown. A love of horses and a passion for mental health led her to create an equine therapy program and pursue a diploma in psychology. Now, as the new manager for Ray of Hope’s Youth Employment program, she’s switched gears and is using her skills to help young people successfully enter the workplace.

Health through horses

Closeup of Julie cuddling a ponyIn 2012, Julie, an EAGALA-certified equine specialist, launched Touch of Haven, an equine therapy program with locations in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties.

At Touch of Haven, teams of certified mental health professionals and equine specialists worked with clients dealing with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities or addictions. The program helped clients to address issues like anxiety and depression while interacting with horses.

“I learned a lot working within those teams, and that prompted me to explore the field of psychology,” Julie says.

A good fit

Sadly, a lack of sustainable funding forced Touch of Haven to close and when the pandemic started, Julie and her kids moved to Kitchener to be close to family. She had just earned her diploma in Applied Psychology and Counseling when a posting for the Youth Employment role caught her eye.

Julie wasn’t actively looking for a new job, but the position seemed like such a good fit with her experience and education that she wanted to learn more.

“People are moving into the YE program because they’ve had struggles. They need somebody to support them, walk beside them, encourage them, and even challenge them. Plus, as a Christian woman, Ray of Hope’s faith directives lined up with me on a personal level. So, I applied — and here I am.”

Julie Brown

“One of the positives is that our administration and community partners are really willing to take a hard look at the infrastructure, to create realistic objectives, and to think outside the box. We will find new ways to do things.”

Julie Brown, Youth Employment program manager

Steering in new directions

Starting a new job is hard at the best of times. During a pandemic, it’s even more difficult. Julie is grateful to the “phenomenal” YE program staff who have helped make the transition easier. Sharlene Wallace, who continues to mentor Julie via weekly phone calls from her new home in Nova Scotia, has also been a big support as Julie addresses some of the hurdles the program faces.

“The biggest challenge for the YE program is that so much of what we did was around food service. And the bottom of that market has obviously fallen out. Right now, I’m trying to find external placements for participants. We had a list of 30 restaurants across the city that used to take our participants and now those opportunities don’t exist.”

“But one of the positives is that our administration and community partners are really willing to take a hard look at the infrastructure, to create realistic objectives, and to think outside the box. We will find new ways to do things.”

It’s clear that Julie’s got the reins, and the Youth Employment program and its participants are in good hands.

Youth Employment program participants develop customer service skills and other abilities that can be applied in a wide range of industries. To learn more about the program and how it might benefit your business, please email Julie at jbrown@rayofhope.net.

When cooking equals caring

We love to highlight the achievements of our amazing Ray of Hope volunteers. This month, meet Ingrid Pfeiffer, for whom cooking is an act of caring.

Ingrid PfeifferFor Ray of Hope volunteer Ingrid Pfeiffer, cooking is a way to care for others. Since the pandemic started, she has helped to prepare thousands of meals for guests at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC) and its partner programs.

It all started with Ingrid’s Grand 7 home economics teacher, who inspired her love for cooking. Working at a group home in high school allowed Ingrid to expand her skills in the kitchen. It also introduced her to young people who had very different experiences from her own quiet life, growing up on her family’s farm. Hearing about the abuse many of the boys had suffered broke her heart. She never forgot it.

Feeding the multitude

As Ingrid raised her own family, cooking and caring remained intertwined. Ingrid became a Girl Guide leader, and she was often responsible for planning meals for large district-wide camps. Those skills came in handy years later when her daughter’s church began serving at the ROHCC. Ingrid took on the challenge of planning meals for hundreds of guests, using food supplied by the Food Bank.

Fast forward to 2020. Recently retired, Ingrid was looking forward to travelling, visiting family, and volunteering. Then COVID came along, and it seemed that none of those things would be possible.

“But God told me to call Ray of Hope,” Ingrid says.

Faithfully serving

The timing could not have been better. With many food programs forced to close due to the pandemic, Ray of Hope was now supplying bag lunches to House of Friendship and St. John’s Kitchen, in addition to the ROHCC’s daily hot meal program.

“Ingrid started as a volunteer with us on March 25, 2020 — just as the world was shutting down,” says Ray of Hope’s Volunteer Coordinator Jaime Wright.

“She began by helping our Community Center staff pack up dinners, then moved on to helping our Morning Glory Catering team put together bag lunches. This is where she has been faithfully serving weekly ever since. Our team just loves working with her, and we are so happy to have her.”

Meeting new people

So far, Ingrid has contributed more than 156 volunteer hours to Ray of Hope. Preparing the food can be labour-intensive — “I cleaned 16 pounds of mini peppers the other day,” she says.

But she says volunteering has given her the chance to meet new people. And from her fellow volunteers, she’s heard about everything from hunting tips to mission trips.

“It’s interesting to hear the stories. And what else are you going to do while you’re making 500 sandwiches?” she jokes. But underneath the laughter, there’s a very serious reason why Ingrid serves.

“I’m lucky,” she says.  “I had a good family. I got some education and raised a family. It hurts to think about the trauma that some of the guests have gone through. Being in the kitchen is one way I can support them,” she says.

Thank you, Ingrid, for sharing your talents at a time when they’re needed most!

Volunteers make Ray of Hope’s programs possible. If you’d like to learn about ways to serve hungry, homeless, and hurting people in our community, please visit our Volunteer page.

Help a neighbour in need

When you give, you make life a little easier for vulnerable people in our community. Thank you!

The Marketplace food hamper program can always use these items:

  • Protein items like canned meat or fish and peanut butter
  • Canned tomatoes, cans/jars of fruit, pasta sauce
  • Toothbrushes and full-size deodorants

For more information, please contact us at: info@rayofhope.net.

You can also provide meals for hungry people through our secure donation page.