In the Spring of 2022, after 12 years in the same location, The Canadian Mental Health Association of the South Okanagan Similkameen (CMHA-SOS) was forced to find a new home. Doing so was difficult, given there was limited commercial real estate space available at the time. They eventually found a suitable space, but it didn’t have a kitchen – a critical component of their Healthy Meals program. As a result, they applied to and received funding from the Foundation to help them build one.
There were many challenges with the project, including supply chain issues that forced some changes to the original kitchen design. Major equipment for the kitchen proved to be too expensive if purchased new, necessitating searches for used equipment instead. Volunteers helped by installing the flooring and staff took on the painting duties – steps designed to save further money on the project.
Despite these challenges, and the fact that the kitchen space is much smaller than the one in their old home, staff like their new kitchen much better. Its coziness and more open design offers improved interaction between staff and clients, and among the clients themselves. “The whole process – finding a new space and completing the kitchen – was stressful for everyone involved,” says Leah Schulting, CMHA-SOS’s Executive Director. “But at the end of the day, we are very happy with how well things worked out.”
The Healthy Meals program is an important focal point of CMHA-SOS’s activities. It’s offered 7 days a week and is often the introductory point to the organization’s services for potential clients. “People will come for lunch and end up staying for other programming, or will learn about additional mental health services available to them,” says Leah.
“A good meal has been the gateway for many of these individuals in building a stronger network of support around them. Our kitchen is key to this success, and we’re thankful to the Foundation and its donors for helping us build it.”