by Angus MacCaull

In a brand new modern dining room in Halifax’s North End, there’s a hip chef plating over a hundred and fifty meals a day. Recent offerings include chicken carrot apple curry with zucchini rice, seafood chowder with fresh biscuits, and a full Jiggs dinner.

If you enjoy the food at Souls Harbour, you can give your compliments to Chef Ryan Payne—but you can’t tip for the service. Souls Harbour is a charity. Despite the restaurant-style atmosphere, all of its meals are free.

Founded in 2010 by Michelle and Ken Porter, the goal of Souls Harbour is to feed those affected by homelessness and help people take steps toward getting off the street. For each of the past two years, they have won $100,000 from the Aviva Community Fund to pursue their goal. In addition to renovating their dining room, winning the Fund has enabled Souls Harbour to become wheelchair accessible, improve their washroom facilities, and install a new kitchen with a walk-in freezer.

“We started with no commercial appliances,” said Michelle Porter. “Now we never have to say no to a food donation anymore.”

Michelle stressed that the Fund was the big factor that put Souls Harbour on the map.

The Aviva Community Fund started in 2009. Since then, it has donated over $6.5 million to more than two hundred community projects across Canada.

“Something I say to organizations when I meet them,” said Stacey Purcell, a Nova Scotian representative for Aviva, “is that even if you don’t win, the level of awareness you build is invaluable.”

In Souls Harbour’s case, the positive name recognition from the coverage of their Aviva Community Fund efforts in the press and on social media has helped increase their donations. Contributions from local households and businesses have doubled.

Michelle and Ken have further expansion plans for Souls Harbour. This fall they opened a second location in Bridgewater. Sheltering and addictions recovery programs are in the works.