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Helmut and Karin Hein pose for a picture inside of an MDS project kitchen.Helmut and Karin Hein pose for a picture inside of an MDS project kitchen.

Helmut and Karin Hein pose for a picture inside of an MDS project kitchen.

Each morning, when Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers head out to job sites in Monte Lake, B.C., Helmut Hein of Abbotsford, B.C. feels a pang.

“I always wish I could be going with them,” said the long-time MDS volunteer, now serving as a cook’s assistant.

“But because of my back, I can’t,” he said.

Hein, 66, spent his career in the construction industry, including owning his own company, and served multiple times with MDS across North America.

But years of working with heavy materials took its toll; now he has arthritis. “I have to be careful when lifting things,” said Hein, who retired in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t still serve with MDS.

Together with his wife, Karin, 61, who is also retired after a career in the food services industry, Hein helps make and serve delicious food for hungry volunteers rebuilding three homes lost to a wildfire in the interior B.C. community.

“It’s a way I can still be of service,” he said while washing dishes in the kitchen of the Westwold community hall, home base for MDS volunteers serving in the area.

While glad to be of use to MDS in the kitchen, Hein—who has served with MDS across North America in places like Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, California and B.C.—still finds it hard to watch the volunteers leaving for work each day.

“I’d still like to try it one more time, maybe as a crew leader,” he said.

“I know this isn’t his ideal thing to be doing, but he’s a very good assistant,” said Karin, noting that while he would love to be out building houses, cooking and serving food is one of the most important and best appreciated roles at any MDS project site.

Nobody in Monte Lake who enjoys the great food Helmut helps prepare would disagree.

MDS Canada needs more weekly volunteers in Monte Lake. If you can help, check out the volunteer opportunities!

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications

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