That’s Our Jam

The Southridge Jam Company is a social enterprise that provides individuals who have recently experienced homelessness the opportunity to develop job training and life skills.

If you were to visit the Southridge Jam Co. kitchen in early October, you would have no problem guessing what kind of fruit the team was working with; the incredible scent of crushed grapes fills the air before you have even reached the kitchen. And grape jelly is just one of the flavours produced by the Spreading Hope team throughout the season, each jar a labour of love by participants and volunteers.

Even sweeter than the three flavours of grape, strawberry and peach preserves however, are the skilled hands who make them. At one particular jam-making session before Thanksgiving, we met with three of our participants from the third cohort of the season, to ask them about their experiences at Southridge Jam Co.

At The Southridge Jam Company, we believe that to be happy and healthy a person needs a home, a friend and a purpose. We offer men and women who have experienced homelessness and marginalization an opportunity to develop job skills while producing delicious jams and jellies. With every jar of jam you purchase, you are not only buying a delicious product made with local fruit, but you are also helping us reinvest in homelessness prevention efforts through Southridge Shelter.

That’s our jam.

And with our second season of jam production nearing an end, we wanted to take a moment to ask these dedicated hope-spreaders some questions, most importantly: “what’s your jam?”

Their answers are inspiring. We have learned so much from their individual stories of resilience and love, and we are thrilled to share some of their thoughts with you here:

Meet Peter:

A humble, enthusiastic worker who chooses every word with thoughtful articulation. He began the interview with a sense of humour:
“I told a couple of friends that I’d be jamming, and they said, ‘Like playing music?’” Peter said with a grin. “So I had to tell them, no, I’m actually making jam!”

With care and authenticity, he shares his story.

J: What made you want to join The Southridge Jam Company?
P: “I wanted to get connected with people who are a part of Southridge and make new friendships with those positive people. And of course, I wanted to give back to the mission in whatever form I could.”

J: What has been your favourite part of the Southridge Jam Co. experience so far?
P: “Building those friendships, every small inch of the way, with conversations, and meeting people–seeing those things lead to rewarding experiences.”

J: What is your favourite part of the jam-making process?
P: “I love the water…that’s actually why I love dishwashing the best. I just love water. I love to listen to it, to feel it…the feeling of my hands in the water is very peaceful, and that’s where my hands are when I get to wash dishes. That’s my favourite part.”

J: What is the most important thing you have learned while at Southridge Jam Co.?
P: “I’m a licensed tradesman, and I am newer to the ways of life through Christ. One of those ways that I want to incorporate in my life is how God works in the workplace. I have experienced enough to see how great it is to have God work in my life, and I’m eager to experience how that process is going to work in the workplace. I can see it already! The people at Southridge Jam Co. are in good spirits, and are willing to help each other. I have learned so much through building these connections. I know that if I stay the course in God’s walk, He’ll find me the appropriate place to be. The potential that I know is in me can be used because I know it’s in there. I want my thoughts to be, “There’s a job to do, let’s work together and do it.”

J: What do these jars of jam mean to you?
P: “It’s not about the flavour or the colour, but the name “Southridge.” I have been learning the importance of God and the importance of people, rather than materialistic goals. I have learned that people mean everything and I see that in the name “Southridge,”where there are people who are caring for each other, and following basic principles from God and the most important things in life.”

J: What is your favourite flavour of jam from Southridge Jam Co.?
P: “Well, that’s a good question. One day Brendon pulled up with a truck-load of jam and I offered to help! I was looking for things to help with…he gave me a jar of jam as a thank you. And I see that as my first dollar–I’m never going to eat that jam, because I want to save it as a reminder of what I have learned. But, that when we have a chance this season to sample some jam, I’ll be trying every flavour! When you are a part of something good, it comes back to you. Brendon offered me a chance to be a part of something great and I took the opportunity. It’s good, it really is.”

J: What’s your jam?
P: “I’ve had a lot of different mottos for different situations, but what is really sticking out for me, is trust in God, and always just doing the next right thing, again and again. As long as I do that, I can’t go wrong.”

Meet Roseanne:

Roseanne’s softly-spoken words bring a powerful amount of love to the world around her– she answers these questions with a genuine intention to bring value to everyone who hears them. Roseanne has been participating with the Southridge Jam Co. since peach season last year. She is now part of a growing team of Spreading Hope alumni, and wants to keep learning, being part of the team and giving back to the community.

J: What made you want to join The Southridge Jam Company?
R: “All the excitement from the get go, I just hearing everybody talk about it. Everyone was so excited about this jam, and I thought, I’d like to see what that’s all about. It’s a good group and everyone’s excited. We all have fun while respecting the rules and regulations.”

J: What has been your favourite part of your experience so far at Southridge Jam Co.?
R: “Getting my apron with my name on it last year. Being recognized. Being part of a great team and I love it! And the road trips are fun too, coming out to Vineland to the kitchen.”

J: What is your favourite part of the jam-making process?
R: “It’s a great group of people, everyone is so great… and the jam’s good too! It’s nice to be a part of the community and getting out in the community. All the people that have been through this, it’s such a great team and support. From Cam and Erma and Brendon, and Tim and Julia, it feels nice to get encouragement from everybody.”

J: What is the most important thing you have learned while at Southridge Jam Co.?
R: “The love that goes into it. Just having Southridge and the community around me has been so important getting through a tough time. The family, and overall support. It’s been great. And they’ve been very understanding.”

J: What do these jars of jam mean to you?
R: “The hope we’re spreading with this jam. Everybody’s just been so supportive of the whole process. And it’s exciting to have some of the new people join. It just seems to be a spark and you don’t want to see that go out.”

J: What is your favourite jam flavour to eat? Your favourite way to eat jam?
R: “The grape jelly is special… they’re all good, but the grape jelly is a little greater… or actually, I should say “graper!”

J: “What’s your jam?”
R: “Everybody is important, it’s nice to feel important, like you’re part of a family.”

Meet Brad:

There was a new pair of gloves in the Southridge Jam Co. kitchen calling Brad’s name, but he was happy to put them on hold a little bit longer so he could share some of his story for the supporters of Southridge Jam Co. We would also discover a couple of weeks after this interview at a Thanksgiving craft show sale, that Brad is a talented salesman, passionate about promoting a delicious product and all the meaning behind it!

J: What made you want to join The Southridge Jam Company?

B: “It’s a job. It’s a job I can help with. I treat this like a job. I don’t like to sit around and do nothing. I’m trying to be an alumni so I can keep on participating.”

J: What has been your favourite part of your experience so far at Southridge Jam Co.?
B: “It’s all awesome! It’s great being part of a team! My bosses Cam and Brendon… Cam has been awesome and Brendon too, he told me about the Jam Company and got me in here.”

J: What is your favourite part of the jam-making process?
B: “I like seeing the whole jam process. I like to help-out with everything. If it needs to be done, it’s got to be done.”

J: What is the most important thing you have learned while at Southridge Jam Co.?
B: “Working as a team, how jam is made, and what ingredients go into jam.”

J: What do these jars of jam mean to you?
B: “To me, it means that I’m passing hope along. It’s a jar of jam and something I helped make. I got to help make it!”

J: What is your favourite jam flavour ?
B: “I’m really excited to try the grape! That’s the one I’ve been waiting for.”

J: “What’s your jam?”
B: “To live life to the fullest, following Jesus. I think I was put on earth to help as many people as I can, and I want to do that.”