Phil Winkelaar
Slideshow image

As it has for businesses, individuals and other activities, COVID-19 brought new challenges to Out of the Cold at Knox.

For one thing, the loss of so many jobs placed more people in difficult circumstances.  OOTC and Knox responded to this need in three key ways, all of which dramatically increased the number of meals served and the need for funds and volunteers.

  • We continued to serve meals for five months more than usual, ceasing only in August rather than at the end of March as OOTCold has done since starting in 1995.
  • Further, from mid-March to the end of June, we served an additional mid-week meal to replace the meal that had been served by another organization at Knox until then.
  • Finally, to respond to increased demand every evening we cooked more meals, with any not picked up at the door given to Daybreak rather than frozen.

In all, from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 we will have served over three times as many meals as in a typical season.

Another challenge was the necessary pivot to takeaway meals with extra safety precautions. That meant a change in the kind of meals provided and the way they were prepared and served, with the purchase of special serving and packaging materials. Extra cleaning, disinfection and safety supplies and protocols were needed, as well as new signs to alert guests to the requirements.

As the weather got colder, we moved to having guests pick up the takeout meal indoors, (see photo) which also permitted us to serve hot drinks. This required yet more adaptations as well as the purchase of additional items to properly protect both guests and volunteers.

The importance of OOTC to the community was affirmed by the number of people volunteering their time, and also by financial and other donations from the business community as well as individuals and churches. And at the end of 2020, as further adaptations were made, OOTC received a generous grant from the Government of Canada Emergency Community Support Fund and Ottawa Community Foundation.

The grant, added to the other donations, will make up for the increased costs and the fact that, due to COVID, the usual fundraising activities could not take place. It is gratifying to know that the work of OOTC is recognized and valued by so many at various levels. We are blessed to have the support of our many donors and volunteers so that OOTC can continue to serve meals to our neighbours in need in the Centretown community.