Cambridge Bay soup kitchen idea met with ‘overwhelming’ support

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Just a day after sharing her idea on social media to start a soup kitchen, Michelle Hovak Laserich (Gillis) had an army of almost 200 volunteers behind her.

“The support has been overwhelming,” she said last week. “It’s really, really empowering.”

Michelle Hovak Laserich (Gillis) is the lead organizer of a movement known as Nana’s Kitchen, which aims to launch a society to feed low-income residents in Cambridge Bay.
photo courtesy of Michelle Hovak Laserich (Gillis)

Laserich, a former Cambridge Bay mayor, said this initiative could blossom into much more than a soup kitchen. There’s a possibility of building greenhouses and tiny homes in the community, men in recovery from addictions could run a food truck, elders could teach youth how to butcher and use the parts of an animal, and carvers could demonstrate their skills using animals’ bones.

“The ideas are endless,” Laserich said. “It feels good to know there’s hope.”

Because it will likely take a year to get the society – known as Nana’s Kitchen – on its feet, activities to reinforce the existing food bank will be at the forefront in the near future, said Laserich.

Part of the impetus to launch the society was hearing from a colleague recently that a local mother hadn’t fed her daughter in a few days.

“I thought nobody should go through that,” said Laserich. “We have a local food bank but it’s been struggling because too many people are relying on it.”

She and other organizers are hopeful that additional supports in the community will improve lives and reduce untimely deaths, vandalism, alcoholism and other social ills.

“I thought if we can alleviate something like the worry of having a warm meal then maybe some of these parents can tackle some of these social issues with a little bit more strength,” she said. “Maybe (the kids) can get to bed on time if they’re not hungry and (the parents) aren’t trying to make a few dollars at a card game or turning to selling booze or drugs or whatever… let’s not do the blame game. Let’s quit judging people and let’s just help people out.”

Interest from private investors and donations from across Canada have already started pouring in, Laserich noted.

“Any help we welcome. If everybody just does a little bit, we can do away with this problem of food security,” she said.

There will be a meeting with mayor and council and a community meeting within the next month to flesh out next steps, she noted.

Mayor Pamela Gross said it sounds like a good idea. Demand at the food bank is constantly steady, she acknowledged.

“It’s always something that is a need in the community with food security and the high cost of living,” Gross said, expressing appreciation for high school student Kieran Evalik, who held a food drive in late May to bolster the food bank’s supplies.

For Laserich, who is battling her own serious health issues, helping others is something she feels driven to do.

“I’ve learned life is precious,” she said. “Let’s make our moments matter.”

Anyone interested in contacting Nana’s Kitchen can do so via email at nanascambay@gmail.com or check out the organization’s Facebook page.