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Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) projects depend on many things to be successful—tools, materials, expert advice and direction from Project Directors and Crew Leaders. And good food—and lots of it.

That’s where cooks like Hannah Cober, 27, of Kitchener, Ont. and Connie Goertzen, 70, of Winkler, Man. came in in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in August.

The two served for a month at the project, which was based in the Sydney River United Protestant Church.

For Cober, who works as an education assistant, it was her fourth time cooking for MDS. She previously served in South Dakota and Grand Forks and Monte Lake, B.C.

“MDS a way for me to do something meaningful during the summer,” she said. “It gives me something to do.”

In Cape Breton, Cober did the baking, while Goertzen, who also worked as an educational assistant, made the main dishes.

Connie Goertzen and Hannah Cober in the kitchen in Sydney River, NS

For Goertzen, who has served in Texas, West Virginia and B.C., service with MDS is a way to meet new people and see parts of North America.

“I like to serve in Canada in summer and in the southern U.S. in winter,” she said, adding service is a way “to feel useful. I wondered what I would do to keep busy when I retired. This is what I can do.”

For both women, the challenge is keeping up with all the various dietary needs of volunteers.

“There are more dietary needs these days than before,” said Goertzen, listing things like people who are vegan, lactose intolerant or needing gluten free food. “We need to keep an eye on the recipes and the ingredients.”

While volunteers need to indicate their dietary restrictions before serving, the two find the best approach is to talk to each one when they arrive.

“It’s simpler if I can find out people what can and can’t eat,” Goertzen said.

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications

A total of 458 volunteers from across Canada provided over 32,000 hours of service for 272 families and community organizations in Cape Breton in response to Hurricane Fiona. This included repairs to 44 houses, 28 new roofs or roof repairs and 179 tree-cutting and clean up jobs. Read about the August 24 closing celebration.

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