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Katherine can often be found in the lounge at 380 Murray. She moved to the community in 2010 and helped to form a tenant association the following year.
She said she felt compelled to get involved because she would go to Community Development meetings in the lounge. Sandra – a tenant volunteer who lives in the neighbouring Beauséjour community, encouraged her to volunteer her time.
After the tenant association started, Katherine was president for four years.
In the last few years, the number of volunteers has decreased. Now it’s more of an informal tenant circle than an association. However, they still maintain the lounge and run important food programs for their neighbours.
Linda, another tenant leader runs a pancake breakfast each month. Katherine supports by helping to serve coffee. She also offers a canteen and soup and sandwiches for $1 every Thursday. She searches for deals to buy food at a lower cost, so she can add it to her menu. On April 14, in advance of Easter, she ran the canteen twice in one day – at lunchtime and at 5:30 p.m. It’s something she wants to keep doing.
“I put my heart in everything, sometimes I am down in the lounge at 7 a.m.,” she said, adding that she makes most of her soups from scratch.
Linda and Katherine help to organize holiday celebrations. Last year, because of COVID, tenant volunteers and staff delivered 150 meals door to door. They cooked nine turkeys.
Katherine grew up on a farm, and went door to door selling eggs, produce and meat from their free-range animals. Her experience growing up taught her how to stretch a dollar and the importance of food security.
Linda and Katherine are both examples of the impact tenant leaders can have on their community. Linda and Katherine helped lead a major renovation of the buildings lounge recently. In exchange for help with painting, they cooked a meal for another tenant volunteer, Don.
“His favourite is shepherd’s pie,” Katherine said.
Keeping the community looking nice is important to Katherine. She helped get new things to make the lounge more comfortable over the years by applying for Community Capital Funds to buy things like new furniture and supplies for the kitchen.
Katherine doesn’t just help in the kitchen. She helps other tenants navigate community resources and volunteers in the community as well. She was on the community house board and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the East District Based Committee. The DBCs are made up of tenant leaders from different OCH communities who are invited to come together to discuss issues important to them and OCH.
She also cares for the garden in the front of the building and coordinates with some of the other volunteers.
Katherine also volunteers with the Tenant Talks Champions working group – a group of tenants who provides staff with important feedback that helps OCH serve tenants better.
Her advice is to just pitch in for new tenants who are looking to volunteer in their community.
“Part of the reason I help out is it helps me to get out of my apartment and be social,” she said.