A sweet scent spills from the kitchen at Southridge Community Church in Vineland, Ontario, and it’s unmistakably that of Concord grapes and sugar joining forces to make jelly.
For Scott Cronkwright, the aroma is much more than a preserve-in-the-making. It’s a smell that triggers happy memories from days long past and, especially, hope for days – and years – ahead.
Cronkwright is one of about a dozen people who make up the current cohort of The Southridge Jam Co., a small-batch-preserves operation launched earlier this year to support homelessness programs, including a shelter that is run out of the St. Catharines location of Southridge Community Church.
As the guy stirring the pot, measuring sugar, or doing whatever job is required of him to turn grapes into peanut butter’s soulmate, Cronkwright relishes the scent wrapping itself around him, sticking to his clothes, his hair, his skin. “The smell completely envelops me,” the 55-year-old says. “It takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. It takes me back to my childhood. Every jam that we produce has this incredible memory generating from it.”
But it’s what happened between those moments playing kitchen assistant to his grandmother as a boy and January 2016 that ultimately led him to a church kitchen to make jam. Cronkwright is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He grew up to work a mixed bag of entertainment, writing, and restaurant jobs, got married, and had children. And for nearly half of his adult life, he existed as a “functioning opiate addict.” —Continue reading—