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Local gym guru comes up with 50-lasagna plan to help local families in need

Chris Cooper was looking for a way to aid families, while also helping to take the sting out of a local business's pandemic-related closure
Chris Cooper submitted
Chris Cooper, of Catalyst Fitness and Two-Brain Business, is pictured in this file photo. Submitted

As food banks struggle to stay stocked and the economy continues on its downward spiral, the Sault’s most vulnerable communities are struggling even more than usual.

But not everyone with means has the motivation to reach out. Not so with Chris Cooper, owner of Catalyst Fitness and Two-Brain Business, a company that supports more than 850 gyms world-wide and helps them boost their profit margins.

“I had an idea to do something for local families,” said Cooper. “But I also saw my tenants at Feeding Your Soul Café had lost several catering jobs once the ‘shelter at home’ mandate came down.”

In an effort to target the most in need, Cooper reached out to Heather Hicks, the director of supports and services at Community Living Algoma, to brainstorm ways to help local families.

Hicks responded that, in many cases, local families often didn’t have access to food in a crisis.

“The timing of their assistance cheques, the need for transportation to grocery stores, and then the lines at stores without childcare . . . it all adds up, I guess,” said Cooper. “So I just did some quick math and realized that 50 lasagnas from the cafe would pretty much equal the work they’d lost in catering, and would make a couple of meals for 50 families.”

Mary Greenwood, the owner of Feeding Your Soul Café – a health-based café that uses locally grown produce, said that once she added up the cost of ingredients – she questioned the idea.

“This was right at the beginning of the pandemic and it was kind of hard to get a hold of everything,” she says. “We thought of maybe distributing soups or chili, but Chris was adamant. He wanted a really hearty meal for a big family – and the cost was secondary.”

Greenwood notes that many local families are struggling right now but don’t have the means or the pride to speak up and ask for help.

“People’s reactions to receiving the lasagnas was what really moved us,” she says. “It was a huge gesture.”

Cooper says that in a place like the Sault, generosity ripples throughout the community.

“The effect is just amplified here because everyone in the Sault is one degree of separation – if I don’t know you, I probably know someone who does. It’s a really big small town. So any gift that you give is really multiplied over and over here.”

And if you do have means, check in on your friends, neighbours, and relatives and donate to the local food bank. Even better – call ahead to see what kinds of groceries they may be lacking.

As Cooper says of the Sault: “We’re all in this together – giving any little thing in the Sault has exponential returns.”