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.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hello dear Tuesday night OOTC'ers! 

After the heat of this summer, you are likely looking forward to a cool fall and OOTC, right?
Have you been well?  Seen any of our guests throughout the summer?

I recently spoke with our guest Ralph who is managing but would manage much better if he had an electric scooter. Even used would be great. He has saved up a tidy sum which should be enough but the availability for used is limited. Anyone have any leads?  Otherwise, he's on the list for a government issued item but will need to wait approximately a year.

You have received a few requests from our incredible committee chairs to participate in HOOTC's Second Annual Ride for Refuge occurring on Sat. Sept 29, Shabbat Hol Hamo'ed (Sukkot.)  Although our Tuesday night group is self-funded, we still receive generous support from the overall HOOTC program. If you would like to sponsor a registered rider, PLEASE do so;  Personal participation is up to each of you; I'll be at synagogue that morning but I'll top up someone's efforts!

Hey, I was at St Mary's last week and, great news, Celso says we will be returning there for next season.  They're even putting a new roof on and returning the natural brick to it's original state - all for us!

The loss of the Basic Income Project is extremely disappointing, in my opinion.  If you agree, maybe you can join me in voicing your displeasure with your MPP.  A few of our guests who were so fortunate to be accepted to the program last year, shared how the additional dollars were already making huge differences in their lives. Jane said that she felt at odds about still coming for our dinners because she could afford groceries but she loved the socialization and all of us. Of course, I begged her to keep coming. Tim said that he would be able to replace a pair of running shoes.  As I was listening to the Aretha Franklin, z"l,  Tribute Channel the other day, the lyrics, below, to "A Brand New Me" seemed to encapsulate the above message and our program in general. 
Norma and I join together in wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year,

Shana Tova and you will be hearing from us again in October regarding our return for Season 19.

Shabbat Shalom,


This is my same old coat
These are my same old shoes
It was the same old me
With a same old blues
Oh, then you touched my life
Just by holding my hand
And when I look in the mirror
I see a brand new girl, oh me
Just because of you

I've got the same old friends
And they've got the same old shins
I tell the same old jokes
And I get the same old grins
But now the joke is on you
It happened somehow with you
Everyday of my life
I'm as fresh as morning dew
Just because of you
I go to the same old places
I see the same old faces
I look at the same old sky
See it all with a brand new light
And I got me a brand new smile
Since I found you, baby
I got me a brand new star
Just because of you
Oh I feel good Just because of you, hey (just because of you) Just because of you, yes I do.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

April 10, 2018


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.

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.


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


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,