Jim Spendlove
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It’s definitely not business as usual for Out of the Cold Centre 120 these days, but Knox’s goal of getting a hot meal to some of Centretown’s least fortunate denizens goes on just the same.  

Nothing is as it was before Covid-19, but with ingenuity and continued support of volunteers from our own church community, the Centretown Community Association (CCA), and other partners, Knox is where people can now pick up a hot take-out meal twice-weekly. It’s really not ‘Out of the Cold’ though you’d recognize many of the hardworking volunteers. Meals are available Wednesday and Saturday evenings between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Volunteers are cooking, preparing, packaging and providing up to a hundred plus meals each night. Turkey stew and mashed potatoes were on the menu on a recent Saturday and there’s even a vegetarian option. It’s a lot of work, but it’s essential.  

Safety is, of course, job one for everyone, volunteers and guests alike. Risk prevention practices like physical distancing and the use of gloves or masks as required ensure everyone’s well-being. Guests are advised both by signs and directions from volunteers to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between each other (marked with colored tape on the floor).  All activity is coordinated under the auspices of municipal, provincial and federal directives.   

It’s not the convivial sit-down meal OOTC has traditionally provided from November to March, but it fills an important community need for a simple and healthy hot meal for those who might otherwise go hungry. This need is recognized by the many generous volunteers on the ground as well as by those in leadership roles including relentless volunteer Helen Beck who ensures there’s cooks available to purchase food and prepare the meals; Shawn Barber, who’s President of the CCA; newly-minted ‘take-out coordinator,’ Steve Rock, who was tapped for the job by Shawn; and of course, Rev. Jim Pot from Knox. All are working to help wherever the demand.  

Helen says guests have been particularly positive regarding the baking provided, and over the Easter weekend, there were some additional treats for everyone stopping in. Helen’s still looking for more cooks but she needs people with some familiarity with the Iona Hall kitchen at Knox.

  No matter how willing people are to help, the food, the drinks and the containers to serve everything in has to come from somewhere and it all costs money. Thankfully, community businesses – many of which are suffering themselves – have stepped up in a big way including generous financial support from Judy Faulkner of Faulkner Realty, and beverages courtesy of Massine's Independent Grocery. Of course, ongoing donations from those within Knox and the wider community continue, but it’s hard to keep ahead.  

Shawn Barber says a big part of his work right now is searching out volunteers who can then be directed to groups or agencies in need of their services, just like OOTC.   “Ours is not a huge organization, "says Shawn, “but we wanted to respond to the obvious community concerns brought on as a result of Covid-19…we’re trying our best to do that.” Just this past weekend CCA’s Centretown Support Network went live with a help line 613 518-3908, email support@centretowncitizens.ca and advertising posters going up around Centretown. Those who require assistance can contact the Network where volunteers will try to match them up with the help they need.  

And even given the tough situation many of our guests find themselves in, there’s always a thank you on their lips and often messages of appreciation on site and through social media. One guest who noted how isolated she is feeling right now, took the time to write a heartfelt and touching letter to Rev. Pot thanking him and all the volunteers for providing such a wonderful meal to those who so badly need it. We should all be so thoughtful.  

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the      world.”       

         - Desmond Tutu