Saturday 25 February 2023

February 24, 2023

 …. is there any other kind?

Hello Volunteers and Supporters of every type imaginable,

So much to report but so little time before Shabbat, so it’ll come fast and fuzzy.

- Our on site team at Erskine have filled the ovens like never before.  This Wednesday, in the ice storm, the cooks and packagers  prepared 247 meals of which 242 were picked up at the Church door instead of at the curb.  Guests received either an entree of chicken parmesan, salad, spaghetti with tomato sauce, OR roast beef, mashed potatoes, hot veggies along with a banana, home baking. The only item missing this week was hot soup which we just couldn’t handle without our full roster of cooks. An aside, several guests hinted strongly that they would welcome an invitation to eat their meals quickly indoors as the rain/ice/snow/wind was too much for their usual ‘eat at the park bench’ experience.  

- Please read the heartfelt and helpful letter attached from one of your guests.  It’ll warm you on the coldest of February days. 

- Our Board and coordinators will be meeting in a couple of weeks to discuss next year’s delivery of meals.  I’d like to hear your opinions on the following: 

* How have you felt about the current meal service?

* How would you feel about the possibility of returning to meals being served in our sites?

* What would be your volunteer willingness to serve and be on that last shift during sit down meals?

* We also have a potential hybrid meal delivery model for sites.

Reminders:  Our last two dinners will be March 8 and 22.  We are a fragrance free team. 

Be well, Shabbat Shalom and from my heart, thank you for all you do for others.


Monday 19 December 2022

Dec. 19, 2023

Hanukkah Edition

This evening, Lowell and I lit the first candle of our chanukkiah with our daughters and granddaughters on FaceTime. Instantly, it brought us all joy. 

The holiday reminds us to continue the tradition of brightening the darkness with light. 

Every other Wednesday, our Out of the Cold group brightens people’s days and nights. Instead of being paralyzed with hands tied and unable to spark a resistance against poverty, we are Judah the Maccabee-sized-heroes!  We illuminate a solution to inspire a movement that brightens the paths of others whose worlds need saving.  Our guests share their struggles with us and are met with more kindness than they ever thought possible.  The dreidels in this week’s gift bags of toiletries, socks, etc. may symbolize the hope and partnerships needed to combat their challenges. 

Our heroes give their time, their money, they sweeten our meals with home baked goodies, donate toiletries, clothes, food, sundries and much much more. Each gift brings dignity and humanity to someone. I promise. 

The Mishna teaches us: There is one who gives generously, yet ends with more.

Here are some of our recently ‘approved’ heroes :)  Please show your support. 

Gastro Market and Catering, King St. E.,  providing appetizers
Fortinos Main Street West, bread
Lococo’s, both locations produce and fruit
Soldaat’s Poultry
Infarm hydroponic farm in Mt. Hope. Their lettuces and herbs yields more than their purchasers’ needs, so we are privileged to accept their fresh gifts.
Costco Business Centre, St Catherines - beef and chicken
Mrs. Sylvia Johnson, 92 years old and blind who knitted dishcloths for our guests’ gift bags 

May your holiday bring you peace and fulfillment, good health and joy.


Thursday 3 November 2022

Nov. 3, 2022

 Hi everyone, 

What a beautiful day to welcome back our guests and volunteers.

Our group prepared 200 meals that included DELICIOUS roasted chicken over Thai pasta with vegetables, fruit, baked goods from Nancy, Jane, Gail AND Betina, leftover Halloween treats, obviously, etc.  Ninety-one guests took away 157 meals. 

Twenty meals went to the community fridge at Barton and James.  I’ve heard it is always empty which was almost the case. Two containers of rotting asparagus in the fridge and zero in the pantry.  As I was loading the fridge with the full bags, people starting to come out from nowhere. Please believe me when I tell you that their need was clear and unmistakable. Another 15 meals went to the community fridge on Ottawa St. 

The breads from Fortinos were plentiful and Lococo’s gave us a cases of bananas, berries and avocados for our outdoor market. The generosity is never ending.  Our chicken wholesaler, Soldaats, actually lowered their price even after I begged them to raise it after four years without any increase.  St. Mary’s Catholic High School invited us on Tuesday to load up on their Scare Hunger Halloween Food Drive.  Now, THAT was fun!

Please spread the word to any potential bakers that their specialties are always welcome!  Toiletries, socks, gloves are being collected too. 

Why do we go to these great efforts?  It is always for our guests.  We all are shocked at grocery store prices and inflation at every turn.  Your commitment to making the lives of others healthier and less challenging is spoken of by our guests frequently.  

Let a new season of kindness be born.

Thanks to all of you.


Sunday 30 October 2022

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022

 We begin our group’s 24th year THIS WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2 !

Erskine Presbyterian is located at 19 Pearl St. N, just north of King Street West.  The parking lot is reserved for church staff and programs that are finally in-person and busy again.  Please find parking on side streets and mind the time restrictions.  The church entrance door is up the ramp adjacent to the parking lot.  Ring the bell and we will come running to let you in.

Volunteers are required to self-monitor for symptoms before leaving home. If any symptoms develop or if contact is made with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, volunteers must advise their coordinator, me, immediately.

If you are new to our amazing group, please bring in a proof of vaccination. At least two vaccinations are required.  Booster shots are highly recommended. We require all volunteers to use masks and/or shields while on site.  All are provided or bring your own.

Upon arriving, each volunteer must complete the Hamilton Out of the Cold sign in sheet and provide contact information should contact tracing be required. The sign in sheet is in the Blue Room which was formally the Yellow Room.  The new paint colour is called “Bit of Heaven” - totally serious!!  Please record your name, phone number and time you arrived and before leaving, record the time. This will be helpful if we need to quickly contact trace. 

As before, wash your hands with soap in the small kitchen sink and report to duty.

Bring your own apron if you like. 

Kitchen cooking crew must don provided hair nets or full coverage hats.

My cell phone number is ... and I have had my ducts cleaned recently.)  Otherwise, call me if you are running late or cannot attend at the last minute. If you know of vacations or dates that you are unable to attend, please let me know, email, text or call, in advance so that replacements can be arranged.

As always, we welcome your input now or anytime. Our program is better because of you!  

See you this Wednesday, November 2.  


Tuesday 19 April 2022

April 15, 2022

 Dear Out of the Cold Volunteers and Supporters, 

 Break away from your Passover and Easter preparations for a well-deserved group ‘hug’ or shall I say ‘chag’ (a homonym of hug, which means ‘holiday’ in Hebrew.)

With your support, we were able to distribute 2,303 nourishing meals to 1270 guests over 11 weeks. By the end of the season, we were preparing 260 meals, sometimes even more. Each takeaway bag contained a meat (beef or chicken,) rice, potatoes or pasta, vegetables and/or salad, fruit, a granola bar, a home baked treat and often much more. The cost of proper packaging was well-worth keeping foods safely contained. We were told that guests often ate their meals immediately around the corner on a bench or on a curb. If anyone asked for more than one meal to save for later, they got it, no questions asked. Hadar’s Yitzhak Bronstein asks us to “consider the flow of our modern Seder. We begin by breaking matzah and putting away some pieces for later, recalling the food insecurity of a slave whose next meal is not guaranteed.”

Who is accessing our meals and why? 

More seniors. At first embarrassed, but a few minutes of kibbitzing and getting to know each other quickly solved that. How do you choose between food and heat, housing, transportation, masks, gloves and sanitizer? Plus, those ‘affordable’ traditional home meal delivery programs are financially inaccessible now.

Homeless or precariously housed individuals who do not have food preparation and storage sites.

 Low-income individuals who are unemployed or underemployed and cannot keep up with the increased cost of living. We hear it all the time! After expenses, $200 is what some people budget for food, PER MONTH. What to do? Skip meals, access food banks, frequent other meal providers like OOTC. 

Food prices have risen, increased, SOARED!  (…and if the product price didn’t go up, the contents’ size went down!)

For our group, the cost to feed a guest one takeaway meal: $2.90.

Average cost for one night: $613 !  (Yes, seriously $613, no joking!  613 = The number of Commandments, including mitzvot, that God prescribes.)

How do we do it?

  • quarterly cheques from Homeless Cars (donate your car!)
  • donations-in-kind from Lococo’s, Fortino’s Main West and friends like you.
  • great pricing from Soldaat’s Poultry, Costco in St. Catherines and die-hard shopping for sales and bulk items!
  • expert and experienced bakers who went about producing thousands of tasty cookies and muffins and never asked to be reimbursed a nickel or bag of flour or a litre of oil. We know how much our guests tasted your care for them.

What will Out of the Cold look like next season in November?

·      One sec, I’ll check my COVID calendar, crystal ball or The One Above.  All depends on Public Health, the virus and the comfort level of our guests, volunteers and host churches. 

·      If food prices stay as they are now, and if we return to in-person meals, purchasing excessive quantities of soup vegetables and salads of lettuce may be prohibitive so menus may change but rest assured, we will make them nutritious and delicious! 

·      Bags of hygiene (toiletries) products will be distributed at least once. If you’re travelling again, enjoy your holidays and come back with hotel toiletries and more. We had to purchase much of it this year. Guests were invited to take one bag or more if they wanted. Many guests declared they were not in need allowing others to take two. We were overjoyed when Hamilton Jewish Federation shared thousands of medical masks and sanitizers too.  Frequently guests received handfuls of masks in the takeaway bags. Whenever you’re feeling grateful, grab a 12-pack of soap, deodorant, shavers, lotion, shampoo, conditioner to get things rolling for next season!

·      Socks, scarves, hats and gloves! Oh my!  They are staples to our guests’ comfort.

·      With the availability of vaccines, we were able to welcome a few extra people per shift making it much less stressful. Hopefully we can re-employ those who could not join us since March 2020.

My heart is full of gratitude for all our volunteers who worked tirelessly and still maintained smiles behind their masks. The OOTC staff, Janice and Megan, the OOTC Board and Erskine Presbyterian provided guidance and generosity at every turn.  Absolutely inspirational!

Have a wonderful and safe Passover, Easter, Spring and Summer. If there are times you would like to reach out or drop off items, please do so.  November to March isn’t long enough to stay engaged :) We should always heed the call to do far more to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people struggling to subsist.

Be well.     


Friday 26 March 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

 Dear Tuesday turned to Wednesday OOTC volunteer. 

You may be an active volunteer, or furloughed or retired, or a member of the bakers (thank God, the flour shortage didn’t last.) You may be a side-lined cheerleader, financial supporter, as well as a mask-wearing, hand-scrubbing, huge-hearted and generous soul!

The one thing you are not is afraid. Did you know that the most common commandment God gives in the Bible is ‘al tirah’, do not be afraid? Fear could have stopped us but we had faith in ourselves, in others, in the world, in Life. Our mission is to feed people, COVID-19 or not! The thousands of takeaway bags overflowing with nutritious meals, snacks, and fruit was like the invention of bumper bowling. It was a surefire success!

Back in November, with the help of Sandy’s Erskine A team, we easily transitioned to a new church. Erskine Presbyterian and Cam, its facilities manager, greeted us like family. Reverend Mike reassured us with every lockdown, that as long as he was concerned, we were essential workers welcomed in His House!

The enormous weekly delivery of produce from Lococo’s was integrated into our meals but with so much left over, we were able to open a very successful free-for-the-taking curb-side Farmer’s Market. Guests were giddy with gratitude! Fortinos on Main St. W. continued to supply us with beautiful breads and Homeless Cars contributed TWICE this season much needed funds from the sale of donated cars. Please support all of these generous establishments.

Over the 2020/2021 season, we delivered curb-side 1,616 meals over 11 weeks, averaging 147 meals per week. On our last night, 202 meals went out along with a list of places to access Meals and Shelters and a survey for our guests to provide feedback. Questions included: Present locations and desired locations? Time of day convenient? Meal portions appropriate? Other desirable non-food items? As we enter summer, we will use our guests’ feedback to steer our budgets and efforts to re-open sites, remain with curbside or carefully structure an in-person meal, … who knows? Twelve months ago, we asked the same questions. Our Board, coordinators, church hosts and volunteers revised health and safety protocols more times than we can count, created new menus that could be executed with fewer cooks, streamlined packaging and outdoor pickup. Truthfully, for so many reasons, this year has felt differently gratifying. To be among people doing something so purposeful for others brings great satisfaction. The pandemic has affected all of us in more ways than we want to admit. Haven’t you given AND received care, attention and kindness throughout the last year? Many of our guests have openly shared their new struggles with us. With each open declaration, we create the humanity that this pandemic has brought to all of us.

One of our guests periodically dropped off small works of art in watercolour as a symbol of her thanks. One displayed a simple flower accompanied by the words: 

Thank you! Numbers 6:24-26. 

Opening my Tanakh, flipping the thin pages, I found its meaning... It is for all of you.

24 The Lord bless you and protect you!

25 The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you!

26 The Lord bestow his favour upon you and grant you peace!

May you and your families experience the upcoming seasons of Passover, Easter and Spring in good health and may we all be together again soon.


Monday 5 November 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dear HOOTC volunteers,

We are so looking forward to our next OOTC Season Opener, TOMORROW, Tuesday, November 6th.  First allow me to share some recent happenings and programme reminders.

Hundreds of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, faith-groups, Hamilton Councillors and neighbours showed their solidarity with us as a result of the terrible massacre of eleven Jewish people who were praying in the Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, on Shabbat, October 27.   Monsignor Edward Sheridan from St. Mary's Church attended #ShowUpForShabbat at Beth Jacob Synagogue for services this past Saturday. We sat together through the service and I highlighted for him the meaning of many of our practices, and not only did he look great in a kippah, he was extremely engaged and delighted to meet so many of you, our Jewish OOTC volunteers, who call his St Mary's our church.

One never knows who you'll meet at a Ti-Cat game:  Tessa Mcfadzean, Assistant Director of Women's Services at Good Shepherd. Chitting and chatting, I learned that there are services offered there that we will can be better at promoting. She offered us some toiletries for our Chanukkah gift bags and then told me that our guest, Sandra, who was chronically homeless HAS been permanently housed for quite some time.  We have all worried about her for so long, not having seen her in her usual places.  This is very happy news.

Our thoughts are with Madeleine Levy, who for many years alongside her husband, Monte, made our OOTC program part of their lives.  The funeral for Monte will be held tomorrow at 11 am.

The National Conference on Ending Homelessness begins today in Hamilton.  A two-page article ran in The Spec this past Saturday highlighting local issues with personal accounts of the complicated challenges.  Please, let them find real solutions..... fast !!

We look forward to new and returning volunteers, at St. Mary's Church.

Directions and Parking for St Mary’s Church, Mulberry and Park St.
Drive North along Bay St.  Cross over Cannon St.  Two streets later, turn right on Sheaffe. Cross over Park St.   Park in the lot to your right. See the gazebo at the far end? To the left and around the corner of the building, is a short staircase leading up to the Parish Hall kitchen. Knock and we’ll welcome you in.

Plenty of 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.

As we may have new guests from the area, they may wish to “help”.  Diplomatically remind 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 and circulate efficiently.  Be vigilant of our guests needs, but don't stand watching.
There is no secure volunteer room available in this location.  Coats can be stored in the kitchen cupboard.  It is advisable to leave valuables at home.

If you perceive a concern, contact Cindy, Norma or our very special reception/security person, Pieter.
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 have several hands to help.  When Cindy and Norma have “left the building”, you'll know we are done!

We always welcome feedback; don't hold back.

If you cannot make a Tuesday, please let me or Norma know. ...... or text 905-966-5102

Thank you for helping host another Out of the Cold!  See you tomorrow.