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HEFC Heroes February - Doug Hempstead

Lynn Sherwood

Greetings to all of our friends and neighbours as we slog through this long pandemic winter. I think I speak for all of us by saying that we are learning both the lessons of patience and the importance of community. At HEFC we value the support and good will of the many community volunteers who are keeping our service functioning through these difficult times. Our municipal grant allows us to pay only one part time program co-ordinator, everyone else is a volunteer. All monetary donations are for purchasing food.

Our volunteer Hero for February has a name which may sound to you, as it did to me, a bit familiar.

Doug Hempstead is the cheerful voice behind the traffic reports we hear every morning on the CBC radio show Ottawa Morning and each afternoon on All In A Day.

Every Tuesday since last July, after guiding Ottawa motorists through the morning traffic rush, he drops over to HEFC just in time to join our celebrated Tuesday crew. These husky men unload, sort, and organize the truckload of fruits, vegetables, and non-perishable foods which arrives - on Tuesday mornings - from The Ottawa Food Bank. Additionally, on days when a food distribution volunteer is unable to come, Doug stays on to help pack up and distribute food to folks coming for assistance, before heading back to work for the afternoon traffic report. He is a true team player.

Doug explained to me that he decided to “get into volunteering for myself”, not as a part of his media persona, and that working at the food bank has become a high point in his week. As a radio personality he is usually viewed as a “performer” playing a role. At the food bank he is just another guy on the crew helping to unload skids of pasta sauce and tuna. He really enjoys the camaraderie and collaboration he finds while helping with the Tuesday Crew. Doug loves working with people from varied backgrounds. The crew currently functions in a trilingual context, communicating on the job in a mixture of English, Arabic and French. Doug is learning a little Arabic even while his crew mates are learning English.

As a reporter for over 20 years, Doug meets and talks to people for a living. He tells me that the Tuesday Crew are amazing individuals with compelling stories.

One crew member is going to school at Humber College to become a funeral director, following the career path of his father and other family members. Another comes from Algeria; homesick, he shares stories about the Algerian culture and way of life he misses so much. Another work mate has successfully raised seven children (his youngest is graduating from high school this year) and another has been a caregiver for both his father and father-in-law for over a decade. Their kindness, good will, group co operation, lack of pretention and sincerity is inspiring. He is learning a lot about human resilience and potential.

Doug described the variety of circumstances of those to whom he distributes needed food including the old and young, single people and families; some have cars, some come by bus, some walk. All have in common the humbling experience of finding themselves in a tight financial situation and all need extra food to get through the month.

Doug spoke of the days when he himself, as a young reporter, was unable to pay all the monthly bills and resorted to a food bank for support. He wants everyone to know that there is no shame in needing to visit a food bank at some periods of life. Those of us who are having a rough time get through it, and will, in turn have an opportunity to pay it forward by helping someone else. This is how we work together as a community and support each other. This is how we build strong and cohesive communities.

At HEFC we really value the contributions of people like Doug who are dedicating their time to helping us support people who are going through a rough patch. It is so gratifying to realize that they too feel they are benefitting by reaching out through their volunteer efforts.

We want to assure everyone that during the pandemic HEFC has taken extra precautions to observe the social distancing and sanitization protocols which help keep us safe. The current lockdown is hard on everyone, but in particular on people who are on a limited income and may also have health issues. Folks who worry about exposure to the covid virus and therefore hesitate to reach out to ask for food can be assured that we are careful to follow all public health protocols and guidelines.

Members of the Board of HEFC are happy to share information about the service we, all together, provide for our community. Call us at 613 737-9090 or e-mail us at for more information.

Check us out on Twitter

Heron Emergency Food Centre is located at 1480 Heron Road and is open 4 days a week to provide emergency food to people in need in Ottawa South.


We welcome cash and food donations including tuna, canned vegetables, canned tomato sauce, canned soup, chickpeas, kidney beans, cereal, and snacks for children.

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