Bob King was more than ready to take charge of the Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown as manager/chef.
He certainly came to the job with impressive cooking and charitable credentials.
On the culinary side, King spent more than one third of his 27-year career with the Canadian Coast Guard cooking. He would go on to graduate from the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology as a Red Seal chef.
As for his giving nature, King once volunteered for five different groups at the same time. In addition to serving as president of the Morell River Management Co-op, he did canvassing for the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Diabetes Association of Canada, and the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
He currently serves on the board of the Charlottetown Boys and Girls Club and also provides free carpentry work to the club.
So King started his job in the soup kitchen with plenty of skill and lots of good will. However, he only committed to one month. He wanted to see if the job was a good fit.
Three years later, he isn’t going anywhere.
“I just fell in love with the place,’’ he said.
“You couldn’t get me out of here with a bulldozer.’’
King says his modest salary is based on a 35-hour week. He typically puts in closer to 60 hours weekly.
The job clearly isn’t about making money. The job is about making a difference.
“I’d be here probably if I wasn’t being paid,’’ he said.
“I enjoy coming here. I enjoy the people. I enjoy cooking for them. If I was cooking for the premier, I wouldn’t do any more then I try to do for them.’’
King knows the value of a good meal.
Eating well, he says, not only makes a person healthier but often can lift the spirit of an individual as well.
He randomly flips open a book to show the tasty meal line-up for one week. Spaghetti and meat sauce to start the week followed by lasagna, pork chops, haddock and roast turkey.
Many are coming to enjoy the meals. A whopping 4,600 meals were served last month alone, up some 500 meals from last year. Such large demand saddens King.
“The sad thing now is we are getting complete families in,’’ he said.
“We have destitute people here. We have people that don’t have a place to live.’’
While seeing so much hardship each day is tough on the soul, King is buoyed being able to provide a good meal, a safe environment and a place for people to socialize.
“We have destitute people here. We have people that don’t have a place to live,’’ - Bob King
“They love to laugh,’’ he adds.
“I try to make them all laugh. They may think I’m on the weird side - and I probably am.’’
He is also very much on the caring side, evident in both how much his job means to him and how much he means to his clients.
“This is probably the most fulfilling job I’ve had,’’ he said.
“They (clients) are very thankful for this place.’’
This is part of a series of Guardian Angels features that we will be carrying in The Guardian over the month of December, leading up to Christmas.
If you would like to suggest a good candidate for Guardian Angel, either give Guardian reporter Jim Day a call at (902) 629-6000, ext. 6041 or send Jim an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and description of the person as well as contact information for that person.