Building Community with Debbie Sperry and Wally Leppiko
“Wally and I have been together for 29 years”, Debbie says, proudly showing off a shiny ring on her left hand.
The pair started coming to the CRC meal program in 2012 as a way to get out of the house and get a good meal. As they live just down the street, Debbie says it’s a good way to not get bored at home, and to meet all kinds of people.
A few years later, after Debbie lost her leg due to complications from smoking, she decided to sign up as a volunteer. A woman she often sat with at the meal program was signing up and Debbie thought “Every day they give out free meals and clothing here, and they don’t have to do it. I thought I’d do my part to help out.”
Wally soon started coming along to help Debbie out with her volunteer shifts at breakfast time.
The two can be seen just outside the kitchen 2 days a week, setting up trays, peeling carrots for lunch, and helping out with other food prep that Debbie can do from her scooter. “Sometimes there are things in here I can’t reach from my chair” she says, “But staff are always happy to help me out.”
Debbie loves animals and is often seen outside CRC with her shih-tzu, PJ, in tow. PJ isn’t able to come into the building, but as we talk, numerous staff and participants come out to give him a scratch behind the ears and have a chat with Debbie. “PJ has godparents you know,” she says, sharing the story of how some friends, who formerly ran a flower shop on Parliament, took care of him while she was in the hospital.
Coming to CRC, volunteering for the Meal Program, and being a participant, are some of the ways Debbie has built a community in Regent Park since she left Halifax 43 years ago.
CRC is happy to be a part of that, with Debbie and Wally spending time in our kitchen and drop-in, telling stories and sharing jokes with everyone they meet.
By Emily Martyn, Community Food Centre Manager