Friday, 15 December 2017

December 15, 2017


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,


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

Thursday, 2 November 2017

November 2, 2017


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.

 *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.


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.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Pre-Kol Nidre Thoughts


This past Tuesday, Norma and I had the great pleasure to meet with the Very Reverend Monsignor Edward Sheridan of St Mary’s Church as well as with Censo Sardinia, the new manager of the renovated, accessible, modern parish hall. We won’t keep you guessing any longer. WE ARE RETURNING TO ST. MARY’S!

It was a meeting of information regarding the new systems of use in the building with limited compromise, (I say) for now. Understandable. With new beginnings, comes discovery and we hope to create welcoming insights to things that may seem, at first, strange.

There is no doubt that the Church is 100% in favour of having OOTC serve those in our community who are in need; however, Monsignor Sheridan felt that the City of Hamilton should play a more active role providing for the poor instead of sitting back and letting OOTC-like programs deal with this reality. With all due respect, I explained, our guests join us for a multitude of reasons, far more complicated than receiving a monthly cheque from the government or municipality. A discussion ensued, and with gratitude, in this case, we are blessed to know that other people don’t have to agree with you to be embraced by you.

This is about social trust, about building a community and you can’t do that if your criteria for community is if you have to agree with me. The only way to do it, is to make room for discussion. Let’s all have our say.

There are many interpretations to the reason Jews take three steps back at the end of the kaddish (prayer.) “God who makes peace in the Heavens, make peace among us and among all Israel and the world, Amen.”

Here’s one interpretation from Rabbi Wolpe. When we pray, we can create peace, but in order to create peace, sometimes we have to take a step back. To let them in, allow them to have their say, have a discussion. If you take their hand and step back you will discover there is a lot to talk about.

For the last month, Jews have been priming ourselves to take an accounting of our relationships with one another and our personal relationship with G-d. In just a couple of hours, many of us will be making our way to synagogues and temples for Kol Nidre followed by Yom Kippur services tomorrow. As we start our self-imposed Fast tonight, we can also think about our guests who do not always have the same choice.

Gmar hatimah tova. May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good. Wishing you a sweet new year, with abundant happiness and health!

Cindy and Norma

Saturday, 1 April 2017

April 2, 2017

Hi Vacationing Volunteers,

There's always a pang of regret as we send off our guests after their last OOTC meal of the season. If only we could keep on cooking and just send their meals by Just Eat food delivery; however, it couldn't come close to the personal deliveries you have so generously accomplished. That's just one of the reasons you need to attend The Volunteer Appreciation Night Dinner, Thurs. April 20th, flyer attached.  Please RSVP ASAP to Norma or

We have the greatest respect and appreciation for three wonderful people: Norma, our coordinator of volunteers who along with Mark sticks around to the shiny and tidied end every Tuesday night, and to Peter, retired from the Hamilton Police Department, our security person who has kept us all in check, welcoming everyone who comes to our little dinner parties.
We wish to thank Christ’s Church Cathedral for their hospitality and kindness for taking in 60 volunteers who had nowhere else to go. Because OOTC is there Saturday (shout out to Sherry and her gang for allowing us to share) and Tuesdays, our 1,956 guests put a lot of wear and tear on that good church of theirs and that’s why we are so doubly grateful.

Did you RSVP yet?  Thanks. Now, put your feet up and enjoy the article Best of Jewish Hamilton: Out of the Cold in the Passover edition of The Hamilton Jewish News.  It's quite the cherry on the top of our 17th Season.

In all seriousness, it's shameful that in Hamilton, a privileged city, there is such a high rate of poverty.  This message has been repeated over and over again for so long. However, two important events will take place this week. City Council will vote on $50 million for the repair of unused housing units, housing allowances, shelter diversion strategies, indigenous-led strategies for poverty and homelessness, “wraparound” help for single parents with everything from child health to employment to recreation programs and finally, for nurse-family partnerships. Also, this week's 3-day conference “Cities Reducing Poverty When Business is Engaged” takes place in Hamilton. It will demonstrate how businesses of all sizes can engage in addressing poverty — through inclusive hiring practices, living wages and more.  Oh, how we pray for their success.

So to all of you who took on this task and gave their time and energy with selfless desire, thank you. Chag Pesach Sameach, Happy Easter, Happy Spring and Summer; see you in the Fall.  And as it is written on our menu board each week, “ENJOY!”


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March 22, 2017

Shhhhh..... don't tell anyone. We may have exceeded the number of persons allowed in Christ's Church Cathedral's hall.

The number of guests just kept on climbing and seemed stuck for a while on a Gretzky (our way of saying #n-n,) but then Rob arrived, balloons fell from the ceiling (only kidding), followed by our Russian friend, Rasputin, (not really his name) who took us right to (Roman) CI.  Interestingly, in life, it’s natural to ask, “How many people did you feed?” “What’s the final number for the wedding?” “How many fans for the game?” However, in Jewish practice, there’s a prohibition on counting Jews. Many sources can be cited for this practice; I like these three.

When the Jews escaped from Egypt and began their journey through the desert to the Land of Israel, G‑d requested that a census be carried out, but not in the conventional way. G‑d commanded each person to give a half of the ancient shekel coin in a nationwide collection, following which Moses would count the coins and know how many Jews there were.

The number of children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall neither be measured nor counted. Hosea 2:1

This prohibition emphasizes the uniqueness of each human being. A person’s unique qualities can never be reduced to some numerical quantity.

As we get set to end our 2016/2017 season next Tuesday, you have mentioned that, ever since we survived the January St Mary’s flood and moved to CCC’s smaller hall, it was a shame that, overall, we fed fewer guests. It saddens us deeply to think that many of our regulars were hesitant to move with us to an overcrowded replacement site. However, we must understand that it would have been physically challenging and/or psychologically distressing to some. Each individual is sacred; each person’s hunger is inimitable. We did our best and we know that it made a difference. THAT is something we can all count on.

More about last night. We usually serve dinner at 5 pm but Peter, our security man, showed us who's the boss, and said that we'd better empty the ovens at 4:50 before 'things' got out of hand.

Food is love and the romance was on for the sweet potato & lentil soup, meatloaf, chickpea/veg/couscous salad, coleslaw, pasta and fruit proving once again that the cooks have more than time on their hands, passion in their hearts and the needs of others on their minds!

Finally, some friendly reminders with flyers attached:
This Saturday night, the fundraising concert for OOTC at Erskine Presbyterian.
The Annual Volunteer Dinner – Thurs. April 20 – RSVP by March 31 – please come; you'll be the best of the approximately 15 x Chai in attendance!


Sunday, 12 March 2017

March 12, 2017

Chag Sameach!!

Hope your Purim is awesome.  This update covers the whole megillah!  Ugh. So many updates, invitations, announcements.

Thanks to the B'nei mitzvah classes from Beth Jacob Synagogue and Temple Anshe Sholom. There has never been better assembled Purim mishloach manot and bags of toiletries, ever! After he described himself as a hellion when he was their age, our dinner guest Ralph gave the students personal insights of the importance of OOTC on his life. It allows him to save money to purchase other important things like a new pair of pants and running shoes. It helped him to handle social situations as well as connecting him with very nice people, US, and delicious and nutritious meals are consistently offered by our friendly and generous group.

The upcoming Hamilton Jewish News' centre spread will feature our Tuesday OOTC program in its Passover issue. Thank you to editor/reporter, Wendy Schneider, who interviewed so many of our guests and volunteers early in the season. She was so impressed that she became one of our team.
Attached, you're invited to:

1. The Annual Concert for Hamilton Out of the Cold – called "Singing for Supper" - Friday, March 25, 7:30pm at Wednesday's site, Erskine Presbyterian Church. $10 (kids free)  Nikki and Shaun (professional singer and musician) put a tremendous amount of effort into putting the concert together and all proceeds go to OOTC.

2. The VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION DINNER - Thursday, April 20 at a new OOTC site, St Nicholas. Please RSVP to Norma or myself no later than March 31st.

An old friend, Simon, returned to Hamilton and found us at our temporary location. "I'll never forget how when I lived at the Y, you would allow me to have breakfast at James St Baptist, and you'd bring me the newspaper too."

I forgot to show you the Hanukkah message from a table of guests, see attached.

Feeling silly yet? Here's help:

Q: What did Adam tell his kids as to why he no longer lived in Eden?
A:  Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q:  The ark was built in 3 stories and the top story had a window to let light in, but how did they get light to the bottom 2 stories?
A:  They used flood lights.

Q: Why was Goliath so surprised when David hit him with a slingshot?
A: The thought had never entered his head before.

Finally, my family has a yahrzeit tonight and tomorrow night at 6 pm. If you're around Rabbi Hillel's, 71 MacDonald, tonight and the BJ tomorrow night, that's where minyan and hamantashen will be!
Chag Purim Sameach