Volunteer works 42-day stretch against food insecurity

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Susan Catherwood says a hero is "somebody that inspires you and helps you see a path. By their example you get an idea of what you should be doing." Photo by Nikolai Karpinski


BELLEVILLE – Not everyone would work 11-hour days for seven days a week, even for pay.

Susan Catherwood volunteers these hours at Bridge Street United Church to make the free food program, Inn from the Cold, possible.

The church program offers free supper to anyone who shows up between mid-January to the end of February. Catherwood says the program is important because "there are people who can't afford to eat. There are people that need company and they need a safe, warm place." Catherwood said.

Catherwood helps organize around 180 volunteers for the church. She also keeps a close eye on food inventory and stocking.

"One of my jobs is to make sure nothing goes to waste," says Catherwood.

The 67-year-old volunteer is a retired math teacher. She worked at Quinte Secondary School for 31 years and still tutors occasionally.

Catherwood first started volunteering with the church in 2006.

"I needed to do something where I was helping people or I didn't feel useful," she says.

She started out volunteering in the kitchen doing food preparation, but it wasn't the task she was best suited for.

"When I first started I was in the kitchen chopping stuff. After I left to go tutor they'd have to chop everything again because I didn't do it very well," says Catherwood, "and then the minister asked me if I would run (the food program)."

Catherwood says that more people have been making use of the churches offering lately.

"In July we had 147 people come in," she said in reference to the End of the Month food program the church runs year-round.

The retired teacher was born in Vancouver, B.C. She moved to Ontario to attend Queen's University and began teaching math to high school kids in Belleville.

When asked what she though about the area, Catherwood said the city has its issues, "there's really high food insecurity here, and there's no shelter. They really need a shelter."

Catherwood is an avid gardener and helps maintain the church gardens during the growing season. At home, she grows roses and a variety of herbs.

"I grow rosemary, thyme, chives, I also have a bay tree. Oh and I grow garlic, my garlic is here (in the church kitchen)," says Catherwood.

The tireless volunteer organizer also enjoys  travelling. She visited Cuba last year and plans a trip to the Galápagos Islands in March.

"I like meeting all the cool people and eating all the cool food," says Catherwood about her travels.


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