The Phillips family knows chili is best when it’s chilly outside.
Mother Darlene, father Craig, and 19-year-old son CJ are working to help feed the homeless at the Main Street Project after starting the Chili From the Heart group.
"With us, you’re bringing us the ingredients and we’re taking that, and we’re going and feeding the homeless," said Craig.
"We’re putting it straight into their mouths," added Darlene.
The North Kildonan residents decided to start the project in order to directly give to those who need it most. The family does not accept cash donations – only ingredients for chili or warm clothing that can be given to the shelter. The group cooks every second Saturday and has now expanded to taking approximately 400 servings of chili and buns each time out. Part of that increase is due to Harvest Bakery’s donation of 300 buns every two weeks.
"We were just going to do it once a month, but the outpouring was so awesome," said Darlene, who started the project in early December.
The group started cooking out of the Phillips’ home for its first three sessions, but a new pair of volunteers secured the Holy Cross School kitchen in St. Boniface for the group beginning with the Jan. 26 cook.
"We still managed here. You just were doing the penguin shuffle past each other," said Darlene, noting there are seven regular volunteers in the group. "It’s so much fun doing the cooks, too. We pick up a big thing of Timmies (Tim Hortons) coffee and away we go. We’ve become like a well-oiled machine."
Those looking to donate or volunteer can contact the organization through its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ChiliFromTheHeart. Darlene said social media is a major part of the project, as the group posts photos of its cooks and thanks each and every donor, regardless of the size of their donation, on the page.
She encourages those who donate to take a step further.
"We feel it’s important for volunteers and people who donate to take that walk with us in the trenches," she said. "Our first donation, I walked out of there in tears.
"There are so many broken and discarded people who use the Main Street Project."
Main Street Project executive director Catherine Carney-White explained the shelter doesn’t officially have a food budget, so the donations like Chili From the Heart is "a huge godsend".
"We’re hooked up with (Winnipeg) Harvest, so we get our basics from them, but we stretch it," she said, adding seeing volunteers makes people at the shelter feel more valued.
Darlene said those looking to teach their children, aged 10 or older, the importance of volunteering are welcome to come along to cooks and deliveries, noting her own young family members have learned from the experience. CJ said going to the mission makes him realize how fortunate he is.
"I’m a spoiled brat. I’m lucky compared to these guys," he said. "It feels good to go in every two weeks to feed them and give them what they need."