Growing up in Western Canada, Michelle Porter never had it easy. As the oldest of 6 siblings, Michelle’s mom struggled with addictions and the family found themselves on the move quite often.
While some would consider the struggles and upheaval to be a negative impact on an individual, Michelle has chosen to look at things in a different way. In her words, “I’m a force of nature now. I can feel at ‘home’ no matter where I am. I make friends easily. And I am eager to embrace the culture of each new place.”
In 2000, Michele and her husband Ken founded the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Regina Saskatchewan with the hopes of creating a long-term recovery program. They purchased a run-down building and reached out to the homeless and the addicted and next thing you know (with a lot of hard work and patience), they were feeding over 100,000 meals each year to those in need.
Ten years after they began their first mission, Ken and Michelle sold everything they had, jumped in their car and drove across Canada to begin a new adventure and the creation of their second mission – Souls Harbour Rescue Mission.
Michelle is an early riser with no need for an alarm clock! Mornings are her time to think and start her day off on the right foot. She loves to cook foods from scratch and often gets supper started before heading to work (her specialties being lamb and veal Irish stew, seafood chowder, and ratatouille.) While her work week is busy, on the weekends, Michelle and Ken open the sunroof and head down the road half an hour to their quaint little seaside cottage, where Michelle indulges in her passion for decorating and love of the beach. “The waves and sand of the ocean are my solace. One hour at the beach rejuvenates me as much as a massage at the spa.”
While they’ve no children of their own, Michelle is the “spiritual mom” to many as her greatest joy is being able to serve families in need. As Michelle points out, “Seeing families growing stronger and being able to stay together, overcome obstacles together…there’s nothing like it.”
Ken and Michelle have always worked together receiving support from donors, volunteers and staff allowing them to continue to grow and expand their mission. In the last 5 years, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission has grown to include 7,000 financial partners, each making a contribution that adds up to enough to serve over 35,000 meals a year to homeless, hungry and hurting people in Halifax…and they’ve recently expanded to Bridgewater. The connections Michelle has made have become a secondary family as “maritimers have a sense of commonality and community that is like no other culture.”
Along with her supportive husband, Michelle relies on a couple of girlfriends to help keep her grounded (both being CEO’s of nonprofits with similar personalities and much in common) and a few other friends who she can call on night or day.
Michelle is extremely goal oriented. Last year, reaching goals was a little tougher as Michelle was dealing with a few health issues but she’s currently deciding what will be her personal and professional priorities for the next year.
This past year my goal was to get well, so I worked hard at resting and taking my medicine and supplements. I feel like I’ve been given my life back, so the world is my oyster again. I’d like to see Souls Harbour open a recovery home for people who need a more structured environment to get sober or overcome other life-controlling problems. I need to get the mechanicals finished on our cottage so we can put up the gyprock. I am going to finish my book. I want to call all my 7000 donors and tell them how much I appreciate them. I mean, personally call them. Is that even possible? I want to read the “Bible” that came with my Kia. It’s a HUGE manual and it’s calling my name…
Ironically, this year Michelle and Ken purchased a Kia Soul…the perfect vehicle for Soul’s Harbour (and her 6’5″ husband that doesn’t quite fit comfortably in any car!) The name aside, the car is perfect for their work at the mission as there’s plenty of cargo room to do the shopping and they find it great on gas. “Our lives are very intertwined with our work and our Kia is the perfect blend for our mission and personal life. I’ve never gotten into a car for a test drive and felt instantly at ease before. It felt familiar and comfortable – like meeting an old friend after a time apart.”
Somewhat like meeting Michelle.