Tuesday, 10 April 2018

April 10, 2018

Chevre,

Was just thinking back to our many OOTC season endings. (Believe me, none of them have been cliff-hangers. We all know how they end: the guests and volunteers leave satisfied but SAD.) I am privileged to highlight a few of our more recent remarkable accomplishments in our Chai Year.

In March, our guest Tim joined our volunteers Sasha, Becky and Louise at Beth Jacob Synagogue to speak to about 20 religious school students, ages 11-13, which included those from Temple Anshe Sholom. Tim spoke of his own personal experience but also spoke for other guests who come to OOTC. On his disability pension, he can barely afford to replace clothing and rent a place at his rooming house. OOTC feeds him almost every night of the week the most nutritious meals offered free or almost free ANYWHERE in the city. He is treated kindly by everyone. When April comes around, he and others worry about what will come next. Twice he told the kids to stay in school and study really hard. Our volunteers spoke about their gratitude for the ‘good’ that has been theirs, even when they’ve had hardships and sorrows. Giving back is a natural way to lead their lives, Jewishly and otherwise. The students sat wide-eyed and still, asking questions respectfully and came to understand another component of tzedakah, justice. Yesterday, I received a text from the mother of two of those students, “We were wondering how to make a donation to OOTC.” After I replied, she wrote back, “Thank you. My kids asked my mother-in-law to donate to OOTC in lieu of their Afikoman present.” (For those who don’t know about the search for the hidden Passover Afikoman, children at the seder run around toppling pillows, looking between books, and in Great-Uncles’ pockets for that matzo which must be redeemed FOR MONEY in order for the seder to continue.) We should all be encouraged knowing that the next generation is already caring for people who are in need.

Speaking of that matzo, a sign of enslavement and our redemption, we realize that however meager it may be, we offer to share it. In so doing, we actually prize more the people in our lives and values we hold dear. Let those who hunger, come and eat. In feeding them, we nourish ourselves.

And we did, on the last night, nourish ourselves just a little bit, right?, on, as one guest described, a “Killer dinner!” Just imagine the expressions on the guests’ faces as they read the ‘DELI NIGHT’ menu board. Pea and barley soup, smoked meat sandwiches, pickles, knishes stuffed with potatoes and onions, French fries, coleslaw, quinoa with softened kale and sautéed mushrooms, bananas and clementines. (Couldn’t have done it without Waxy’s food truck and Suzi!)

Recently, on the walls of a diner, I read the following messages: “You can’t live a full life on an empty stomach.” “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.”   “Good food=Good mood” They make perfect sense in this special OOTC world. Our guest Murray stressed: “PLEASE thank ALL the volunteers. They have to know what it means to many of us to who suffer from isolation. It is the shits. OOTC gives us a chance to be together, to have nice chats and socialize.”

Over 19 weeks, 2430 guests were fed, averaging 127 satisfied appetites per week. That is the highest since our 2011/2012 Season. It was also our most expensive season even factoring in the generous weekly donations of Fortinos’ bread and Lococo’s produce. It couldn’t have been accomplished without your serious commitment and our wonderful Coordinator of Volunteers, Norma. We love you, Norma!

So to all of you who took on the task and gave their time and energy with selfless desire, thank you. Please return again in the fall. Wishing you good health and happiness until we meet again.
Cindy

PS (ha, ha, not done yet!) I recovered a beautiful poem presented to our group on a final night. Keep it close to your heart.

Seated at worn table, earthly cares set aside,
One of many humbled shadows taking life’s woes in stride
Eyes downcast past angelic guests
For a respite of rest
Bowl of soup, a wedge of bread to be downed
But first, cradled like they were a jewel in a crown
Among forlorn smiles, part of the fold
Lingering for a while out of the cold.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

March 14, 2018

Hi everyone!

Signs that Season 18 (Chai) is coming to an end -

1. The days are longer and brighter when we leave the church.

2. The guests, 137 last night, are getting teary-eyed and more effusive with their words of gratitude.

3. The pantry is almost empty except for those containers of cocoa and bags of mini-marshmallows that were intended for hot chocolate.

4. There is less and less food left over at the end of the night. Either the guests are in a seasonally reversed pre-hibernation mode or they are getting better at doing 'take-out.'  haha (Minestrone soups totally disappeared, as did roasted eggplant and peppers, caesar salads, fruit. Only one tray of lasagne remained.  Our cooks are THE most talented, chatty, efficient, motivated, joyful creators of dinner experiences anywhere!) BTW: Last night's announcement that we will be serving fish next Tuesday drew applause! 

5.  Mazal tov!  You've all passed your probational period!

6.  Sister Carole Anne stopped by for a final visit. Then 10 minutes later, Sister Nancy showed up.  They were stunned to see each other, apparently it was not planned but, bashert, meant to be.  As we sipped tea along with our afternoon crew, they thanked us again for our contribution. I responded that it's almost sinful how much fun we have. The Sisters welcomed that kind of confession.  Before they left, I sold both of them tickets to the Sing for Supper concert supporting OOTC. March 24 - 7:30 pm. Erskine Presbyterian Church, $10. Please join me and the Sisters for an amazing evening of music. Email asap to reserve tickets.

See you next Tuesday.

Cindy

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

January 31, 2018

Hi everyone,

We had some very distinguished guests show up for dinner last evening!  (They even made reservations.)

Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby and Monsignor Edward Sheridan of St Mary's.

Upon their arrival at 5 pm, I had the opportunity to answer the Bishop's questions, all of which were directed to the essence of our program.  I explained something that I had learned just the day before in my Torah class taught by Lanie Goldberg. The root of Ahava (Hebrew for love) is hava, which literally means to give. It also shares a root with the word, ahav, which means to nurture or to devote completely to another.  Meaningful relationships have mutual giving.  Love may focus on receiving, but ahava is all about giving; therefore, “ahava” is not an emotion but an action.  And our actions are what define us and their partnership is most appreciated.

Bishop Crosby said the blessing over the food and then he and Monsignor Sheridan of St Mary's remained throughout our meal service making their way around to the guests and every volunteer which must have worked up their appetites.  One young man at a table very casually pointed to two seats and invited them to join, which they did, enjoying Southern Fried Chicken, roasted red peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and mushrooms as well as a fresh tossed salad. After their experience and as they left for the evening, Bishop Crosby shared that MANY guests insist that our night consistently has the most delicious food and friendliest volunteers.  It seems he agreed, since our OOTC CEO, Glenn, spoke with Monsignor Sheridan this morning and also with The Bishop's Personal Assistant to thank them for their visit to St. Mary's. Monsignor Sheridan and Bishop Crosby were deeply touched by our efforts to serve the most vulnerable members of our community.

It was a memorable evening for everyone present. 

See you next Tuesday. Cindy

Friday, 15 December 2017

December 15, 2017

Chevre,

Did you hear the one about the couple who walk up to the security desk at Out of the Cold? They playfully yet formally state, “We have a reservation for two.” TRUE STORY!

Bread Server to Guest, “ Would you like whole wheat or white?” Guest, “Whole wheat please. White bread’s for pigeons.”
“Your volunteers do a better job than those at a 5-star restaurant.”
On the first really cold Tuesday, Dec 12, a guest requested gloves; however, we had just delivered our last pair. One of our volunteer overheard this. She ran to her car, grabbed her own gloves and presented them to a very grateful guest.

Since it is too difficult to join us, we took our guest, Ralph, a bag of toiletries and his annual Hannukkah dinner: minestrone soup, brisket, latkes and coleslaw – enough for a few meals. In is usual personal way, face to face, Ralph wishes all of you a Happy Holiday.
The Montreal Canadiennes’ fan, his eyes looking upward, a smile of contentment on his lips, wordlessly proclaimed our dinner Heaven sent.

This is what a professional, Paul Boles-Beaven of Union Square Hospitality Group says, “When people think about restaurants, they think most about service as a word, but what they mean is hospitality. Service is the technical delivery of a product to the end user. It’s the right food at the right time at the right temperature being given to the right person. Hospitality is how that transaction feels. You know that something can be done perfectly from a technical point of view and not feel very good. Hospitality is providing for someone else in such a way that they know that you are on their side. The combination of technically perfect service with warm, caring, intelligent, smiling, and friendly hospitality is a winning combination.”  AMEN, PAUL!

It was a special first night of Hanukkah. Thanks to everyone who donated toiletries, the students from Beth Jacob Synagogue’s Hebrew School who packaged them and a special shout out to the latke makers who kept the church from smelling like a shul!

There were 149 guests who will probably all be returning for more Hanukkah styled hospitality, next week. SO, PLEASE bring your own hanukkiah and candles for the full lighting. It will be so beautiful.

Last week, we were visited by our OOTC founder who never forgets to spread her encouragement and greetings to all, “May you be blessed for all you are doing for God-s beloved poor. Thank you for doing all with compassion and joy. Sister Carole Anne”

Finally, the person who taught us most about hakhnasat orchim, hospitality, was Gloria Silverman, z”l, the founder of OOTC’s “Jewish Night.” She taught that wherever there is suffering, it is the Jewish ethic to pursue justice passionately. Food was just one of her SPECIAL ways.

I always say that, for our guests, worries go down better with soup …. Soup that is created, simmered, seasoned, stirred, tasted, adjusted, ladled and delivered by people like you.

Chanukkah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Cindy

November 24, 2017

Shabbat Shalom,

We all agree: the first three weeks of Season Chai have not been 'normal.'  I'm not just talking about the warm weather.  I'm referring to a few things.

First, and so early on, we have a great number of volunteers and you are all great volunteers!!!!   Second, the number of our guests have never been this high so early in the season and, as many of our 'experienced' volunteers have said, there are many new faces (and appetites.)  Thirdly, and maybe this is my own perception of our environment, the newly renovated church. "Truly G-d is in this place, and I did not know it!"  (Referring also to this week's parsha, Vayetzei.)

Why do I think so?

A young woman approached and with genuine honesty remarked that it was her first time at an OOTC. She could not believe her luck. The food was excellent and the people so kind.  I asked her how she learned about us?  She was at her doctor's office, speaking with the nurse who was concerned about her weight and nutrition.  The nurse recommended that Jennifer start dining at OOTC.

Remember Johnny, our guest who was banned from the shelters last February and how we went on a shopping spree at Giant Tiger to outfit him with some items that would help keep him warm until he could return to the shelters. Well, he came for dinner this week looking SO well rested.  He has an apartment!  It has been 5 months now; the rent is slightly over half of his monthly income, but he's good.

Last week, upon arriving for dinner, a gentleman asked if there would be enough soup for seconds. We replied, "Yes, and maybe even thirds."  He replied, "Baruch HaShem."    In Hebrew, that means, "Thank G-d."

Let’s face it, friends. We're all ordinary folks doing something 'unordinary' for some other folks and for ourselves too. But we’re more. Our actions spurned by whatever mindful or unmindful observance we possess is creating a space significantly holier than the one we may inhabit at other times of our week.

We can all be proud of our beginning.

Shabbat Shalom, Cindy
Shabbat Shalom,

We all agree: the first three weeks of Season Chai have not been 'normal.'  I'm not just talking about the warm weather.  I'm referring to a few things.

First, and so early on, we have a great number of volunteers and you are all great volunteers!!!!   Second, the number of our guests have never been this high so early in the season and, as many of our 'experienced' volunteers have said, there are many new faces (and appetites.)  Thirdly, and maybe this is my own perception of our environment, the newly renovated church. "Truly G-d is in this place, and I did not know it!"  (Referring also to this week's parsha, Vayetzei.)

Why do I think so?
A young woman approached and with genuine honesty remarked that it was her first time at an OOTC. She could not believe her luck. The food was excellent and the people so kind.  I asked her how she learned about us?  She was at her doctor's office, speaking with the nurse who was concerned about her weight and nutrition.  The nurse recommended that Jennifer start dining at OOTC.

Remember Johnny, our guest who was banned from the shelters last February and how we went on a shopping spree at Giant Tiger to outfit him with some items that would help keep him warm until he could return to the shelters. Well, he came for dinner this week looking SO well rested.  He has an apartment!  It has been 5 months now; the rent is slightly over half of his monthly income, but he's good.

Last week, upon arriving for dinner, a gentleman asked if there would be enough soup for seconds. We replied, "Yes, and maybe even thirds."  He replied, "Baruch HaShem."    In Hebrew, that means, "Thank G-d."

Let’s face it, friends. We're all ordinary folks doing something 'unordinary' for some other folks and for ourselves too. But we’re more. Our actions spurned by whatever mindful or unmindful observance we possess is creating a space significantly holier than the one we may inhabit at other times of our week.

We can all be proud of our beginning.

Shabbat Shalom, Cindy

Thursday, 2 November 2017

November 2, 2017

Chevre,

Yasher koach! When someone performs a mitzvah or a good deed they are sometimes congratulated by these words. Rabbi Grover explains, “Translated, the wish is that the person should have honourable strength. We wish that nobody rest on his/her laurels, but instead focus on future accomplishments performed with strength and honour.”

And so begins our 18th season next Tuesday, November 7th. Our volunteer roster is full and, lucky for us, we even have a list of alternates. But remember, this great news should not deter anyone from finding other ways to contribute. Encourage others to run a food drive, small or large. Collect adult sized gloves and hats. Straight out monetary donations or donation cards can be made by calling Beth Jacob Synagogue, 905-522-1351. Seriously needed: toiletries in sample sizes or mid sizes to fill our Chanukah loot bags.

Our host church, St Mary’s, has been renovated. It is so bright, accessible for all, ‘new just about everything’ including the Hall Manager, Celso, who will instruct us on the latest procedures. Our guests will also be impressed by the updated space and thrilled to see all of you again.

Housekeeping and ‘Just-the-Facts’

The new kitchen door to the church is on lock mode all the time. Please knock OR call the numbers below for entry OR you may enter by the guests’ door if arriving after 4 pm.

If you are ill, G-d forbid, or unable to make your morning/early afternoon shift, please text/call Cindy, 905 317-7606.

If your shift is 3:45 to 6:30 pm, confirm by text/call with Norma 905 906-5102.

Volunteer Information Forms
 If you’re a newbie or your previous emergency volunteer form needs updating, please print the attached, complete and return to Cindy or Norma.

Directions
 *north on Bay, past Cannon, right on Sheaffe   *enter by kitchen door, east side of building   *after 4 pm you may enter by guest entrance (west side) *parking in the lot; ask Cindy for a seasonal parking pass.

Reminders

Please remember this may be a rare, “home-cooked” meal for many of our guests. As in our own homes, we model the same hospitality, creating a welcoming ambiance, serving efficiently and generously.  Offer seconds when possible, as guest may be embarrassed to ask, and take your time removing dishes and cutlery.

If guests wish to help out, diplomatically explain to them that they are “guests” and as such, are expected only to enjoy the evening.

In chatting with guests, do so only in the dining room, preferably with a partner.  Enjoy brief “neutral” topics.  Do not share your last name and personal information. If you perceive a concern, contact Cindy, Norma or security.

There is no secure volunteer room available in this location.  Coats can be hung in the kitchen cupboard.  It is advisable to leave valuables at home. Offer a ride home to a volunteer who is alone or walking. If you are working the “last shift”, please stay until the end, helping with the final clean-up duties, which are less challenging if we all work together.

Should you have any suggestions, you know we're ready to listen. This is an important group effort; we can evolve so that your time and focus is most meaningful.

One last lesson before you ask your muscles to recall those Out of the Cold exercises – Upon receiving a heartfelt Yasher Koach, the proper response is Baruch Tihiyeh meaning "May you be blessed."    

See you Tuesday.  

Shabbat Shalom.