Cooking Up Some Joy in My Soul

“To serve, you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We take great joy in service to others is one of Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Core Values. By meeting the emotional and physical needs of our children and families, we see how small acts of kindness have a ripple effect that reach far and wide.

Susan began caring for her four grandchildren ranging in age from seven to 12 after other family members were unable to care for them. Recently divorced and living with her sister, the ladies welcomed the children into their home. As the family grew from two to six, space became limited in the house. The grandmother either slept on the couch or on a palette on the floor giving the children a bed at night.

Susan owned a home that she previously used as rental property. Before moving out, the former tenants caused significant damage to the interior. Susan decided, despite the damage, to move back and work to refurbish the house. Her grandchildren were thrilled!

Susan worked late hours as a local hair stylist to accumulate extra money for repairs. She and the kids all pitched in to help and took great pride in seeing the house restored. Susan’s church also provided much-needed building supplies and furnishings. The house was slowly returning to the home it once was.

Susan’s kitchen was very minimal with only a working refrigerator and an oven that worked “when it wanted to,” making meal preparation for a large family difficult. Neighbors invited Susan to prepare her meals in their kitchens in between their own meal preparation, but Susan often felt she was an inconvenience. Susan loved to cook and previously used her time cooking to catch up on the children’s day, but dashing back and forth between houses took much of the joy out of her nightly meal prep. Nevertheless, she did it with a smile on her face.

When one of Susan’s grandsons entered Canopy’s Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock (MYPAC), the Child and Family Team assessed the family’s physical and emotional needs in order to help identify therapeutic methods and local resources that could help. It was immediately apparent that the kitchen was a place of need for the family.

“Ms. Susan is a very resourceful lady,” said Traci Epps, MYPAC Therapist. “She doesn’t ask for help or handouts. She will try a million different ways to do something on her own before admitting she needs help.”

Meanwhile, renovations pushed forward at Canopy’s Jackson community office with plans to auction off furniture, décor and other items that would no longer be used. As Traci learned details of the renovations, her mind wandered to the white stove in the downstairs kitchen.

“I spoke with our regional manager about some of the items that would be available for auction. I noticed the white stove from the break room was not included,” said Traci. “I asked if there were any plans for it, and knew if there wasn’t, I was going to find a way to get it into Ms. Susan’s house.”

Turns out, the kitchen area was being reduced and there would no longer be space for some of the existing appliances, including the stove. As Traci pushed her request up to management, things turned brighter for Susan and her family.

“I was so excited when I found out about the stove; I knew how much it would mean to Ms. Susan and her family,” said Traci. “I didn’t tell her because I wanted it to be a surprise.”

But the surprise was on Traci. During her vacation, demolition on the kitchen began and Canopy Maintenance Techs Travis and Bryan were asked to deliver the stove to Susan and her family.

“She was so tickled when we brought in the stove,” said Bryan. “If we had handed her a thousand dollars, I don’t think she could have been any happier. As we were carrying out the old one, it fell apart in our hands, so I knew with certainty this new one wasn’t going to waste.”

“We were also able to take a microwave,” said Travis. “The kids were so excited to have something they could use. The family was so grateful and it felt really good to be able to help them out.”

Traci received a text from Susan later in the afternoon after the stove was delivered.

“She was so excited, thanking me and thanking God for how much this would bless her family,” said Traci. “I was sad I wasn’t there when it was delivered but I was glad they finally had what they needed.”

That night, Susan cooked their first family meal in their home. On the menu was fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy and corn.

“I will always remember the meal I cooked that night. It was so special,” said Susan. “Having Traci and Canopy in our lives has been such a blessing to us. Traci is a God-sent angel in my book.”

The new stove has given the family more time together, greatly reducing Susan’s stress and making a positive impact on the family.

“This experience made me realize things we take for granted can be really big for someone else,” said Traci. “It is such a rewarding feeling to find a way to help.”

Susan says that she is eternally grateful to Traci and Canopy. Not only for the stove, but for helping her family through tough times. Susan credits her grandson’s MYPAC team and her other grandchildren’s therapists at the Behavioral Health Clinic for helping to return joy to their home.