“I got very depressed and didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't reach out to the world.”
When 69-year-old Joyce Budd moved back to Calgary four years ago, she had a good job and an affordable place to live. But when she was fired as a result of health problems, including diabetes and arthritis, she had to cash in her pension early and owed the government lots of money.
“It was really hard to afford healthy food,” she says. “I ate a lot of junk — which was bad for my diabetes and didn’t help my mood. I got very depressed and didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t reach out to the world. I just stayed on my couch and watched TV.”
Newly divorced, with few friends in Calgary and her children and grandchildren busy with their own lives, Joyce became isolated. She was so low, she couldn’t even cry. “Smiling was difficult, too,” she recalls. “I’m a fun-loving person. I like to laugh but I’ve seen pictures of myself from that time and I had to force a smile — it shows.”
When she had suicidal thoughts, Joyce knew she needed more help. A social worker set her up with programs and mental health supports, and she discovered The Alex Community Food Centre. Her training working in hospital kitchens made it a perfect fit.
Since then Joyce has participated in cooking programs and works as a peer advocate, supporting others to access some of the resources that helped her. Her latest contribution is the introduction of a monthly celebration with cake and a card for community members whose birthday it is that month.
“I’m surprised by how many people come in and ask about it,” she laughs. “But it’s a chance to get to know one another. Lots of people haven’t celebrated in a long time.”