Our usual Fall Masquerade has been cancelled this year. However, we’re replacing it with something even more meaningful and close to our hearts — Family Dinner. In another update letter from our Youth Worker Rhianna tells us why this weekly event is so special for her and for the Work 2 Live participants who put it together.

For most people family dinner is a normality of everyday life. For those living away from home it’s a special moment when we get to visit family. Some of us have recreated family dinner with our friends. Maybe it brings back memories of being called to the table for dinner, or the TV having to be off, or reminiscing about a particular meal that would often be part of family dinner, perhaps memories of extra special dinners for birthdays, Christmas and other celebrations.

A large group of people are sharing a celebratory dinner at a Community Centre.

Celebrating Family Dinner with program participants, graduates, staff, and volunteers.

Ultimately for most, including myself, I have taken family dinner for granted — especially the value and connections it provides through childhood and adulthood. If you asked me what my foundation was built upon, family dinner would not have been in my top five because it’s such a “non-event” in my life.

The Zero Ceiling Family

But for many youth facing or at risk of homelessness, family dinner simply doesn’t exist and may never have existed, and the reasons vary for each individual. Their current foundation is survival — getting through each day, one day at a time.

When youth join the Work 2 Live program, they become part of the Zero Ceiling family. Every week we have family dinner after our Ride Day exploring the mountains and nature around us, and it is the highlight of my week. Each week one of the crew creates a recipe. Nesters Market sponsor the ingredients and The Brew Creek Centre has kindly donated amazing fresh produce every week for us to get creative with.

Connecting Over Food During a Pandemic

screen capture of a zoom call. the Zero Ceiling staff and participants are watching a video tutorial on how to chop parsley during one of our virtual family dinners at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic Family Dinners looked like this: a screen of people in their home kitchens, following a recipe together.

In the first few months of lockdown, we had a choice — to cancel Family Dinners or try to find a way to do them safely. We understood they were so important to the crew and to our team that we chose to do them virtually over Zoom. Participants would take turns sending around a recipe and an ingredients list. Every Tuesday night, we would all log on from our own kitchens, chatting and sharing while we cooked and ate in the same (virtual) space.

We heard that these amended Family Dinners helped to keep our participants and our staff in good spirits. It gave them something to look forward to, and also connection, a creative outlet, a sense of purpose and community, and stability in a time when all of that was compromised.

Thanks to the Food Bank at the Whistler Community Services Society and our programming team, we were able to do safe drop-offs of groceries and staple items so the participants could remain safe and fed through those early days of the pandemic.

Family Dinner Creates Community

An overhead shot of a table full of yummy food we had at Easter.

Our Easter 2020 meal. The Work 2 Live crew were able to cook up this amazing feast with their roommates.

When we cook together, we connect and open up about our experiences, we learn from each other about new ideas and different cultures and we bring people together.

When we eat together, we share knowledge, we tell stories, we are encouraged by others and we feel a sense of belonging.

Every meal is unique and different just like every individual on our program. Once you are part of the Zero Ceiling family, you are always invited to come along to family dinner. Having so many graduates join us each week and make time in their lives for Zero Ceiling makes it extra special.

Family dinner represents safety, security, connection, stability, love, value, and it lets us know we belong. My hope is one day every youth feels they belong.

I hope you can join Zero Ceiling for an extra special family dinner.

While our Family Dinner event is sold out, we still have raffle tickets available. Enter to win a private helicopter tour with a landing on Rainbow Glacier, generously provided by Blackcomb Helicopters. Chances are $10 each or 3 for $25. You can also help us keep Family Dinners going by donating today. Zero Ceiling's Family Dinner