The new community kitchen at the Harbourside Inn was blessed by the Laichwiltach First Nation on Thursday (Nov. 26).
Shawn Decaire, Audrey Wilson and Kevin Walton from Laichwiltach held a smudging ceremony at the facility on Thursday evening in the presence of a small group of stakeholders and community members. The Laichwiltach Family Life Society holds the lease for the location, and it is located on their traditional territory.
“Today is about blessing the new space and purifying it by smudging everything away, everything that was in here,” Wilson said. “That’s part of the work that we do as Aboriginal people, to make sure that we smudge the new space to clean it and cleanse it.”
The kitchen will be named Hama?Elas, which means “A place to come together and eat.” The name was suggested by a Laichwiltach Elder because it represents the spirit of the project.
“It’s not about hierarchy, power and control,” said Decaire at the beginning of the ceremony. “It’s about humanity, and I think that’s why we’re all truly here.”
After the Radiant Life Church building was sold earlier this year, many food security groups had no place to offer meals to Campbell River’s most vulnerable people. This facility was made possible after funding through the Campbell River Community Foundation came up, and the operators were able to secure a lease for the space.
“There’s a group of us from different organizations to make it happen because of what happened, losing the space up at Radiant Life to try and support the community part of it. They were doing it outside, and it’s so cold out. This is perfect, the way it’s set up,” she said. “I was shocked when we came in here too and saw how much was done.”
They are also looking at opening a shower and laundry area in the space next door to the community kitchen. The plumbing for that space is currently being installed, with hopes of being open in early December.
“We’ve got to sit down and work it out yet, how we use the space and the groups,” Wilson said. “It’s the cleaning component that’s going to determine it. We’re hoping to have a sitting area where people can wait while they’re getting their clothes washed. We’re also going to have clothes there that they can take, because mostly all of their clothes are going to be dirty and need a wash, so they’ll be able to grab a set of clothes to put on while they’re waiting for their laundry. Then we’ll have coffee and stuff too.”
Hama?Elas Community Kitchen is a space for community groups to provide meals for people in need in Campbell River. The goal is to fund a coordinator position to streamline the use of the facility, and to help bring together volunteers for the kitchen space.
“Down the road, the hope is that we’ll have a coordinator who’ll be able to facilitate that piece, because we’ve applied for the monies from the United Way for that,” Wilson said. “That’s going to be run through the Strathcona Community Health Network. When we have a coordinator, that will make it easier.”
The kitchen is expected to be open this week, pending approval from Island Health.