By Shelly Berenbaum.
Since it welcomed its first guests 16 winters ago, HBT’s Out of the Cold has evolved dramatically, and has seen thousands of volunteers enthusiastically giving their time, and thousands of guests happily accepting our care.
The first night, when I ventured down, I wanted to see for myself exactly what we do. I went in as an employee of Holy Blossom, never thinking how that short visit would influence my next 9 years. But after that first evening, of watching the volunteers interacting with our guests and seeing our guests’ gratitude for the volunteers, I realized I was hooked. And that one night changed my life forever.
I have made many new friends volunteering. Over the years I have recruited my family and friends who all continue to support the program every Thursday night from November until April. Our up to 120 guests are offered a nutritious meal, nursing services, and a warm place to sleep for the night, as well as clothing and other basic necessities in a manner that respects our guests’ dignity, self-respect and sense of worth.
We begin the evening as soon as the guests arrive, waiting patiently in line to come into the Temple. While in line we offer them hot drinks and assorted snacks. As soon as the doors open they are greeted by friendly faces as they settle down at a table for a hot meal. Our volunteers serve hot soup, fresh salad and then an entrée of chicken or beef, potatoes and vegetables, and then a dessert along with fresh fruit.
We also have live music for all our enjoyment throughout dinner including fundraising events like the Kenny Munshaw/Beverley Mahood Coffee House Concert, which raised much-needed dollars that helped us to meet our budget requirements.
After dinner, the room is cleaned and cleared; donuts and coffee urns appear. People read magazines, play bingo or just socialize. Those who leave are given a bus token and a packed lunch. Those staying overnight set up mats on the floor; they receive a cooked breakfast in the morning.
Like invisible angels, many volunteers work entirely behind the scenes. Some come in to scrub pots, make bagged lunches, clean tables, serve dinners, socialize, act as security and the list goes on and on. Out of the Cold is my volunteering passion and I can’t wait for our next season to begin! As we plan for the 2012/13 year we are always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of the program while continuing to meet the needs of the community.
We are also investigating additional cooperative ventures with Ve’ahavta and other efforts that will benefit the community at large, making HBT’s Out of the Cold a key figure in the fight against homelessness.
However, as with each year, looking forward we face new challenges. If HBT’s Out of the Cold is to continue to be a source of shelter to the hundreds of homeless guests we serve, we’ll need help.
To make a donation in support of OOTC, please contact us at 416.789.3291 Ext 265. If you would like to volunteer for the 2012-2013 season, please contact me, Shelly Berenbaum, at the Temple, 416.789.3291 ext. 233 or email [email protected]. Our volunteer sign-up night is currently scheduled for Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
Come out and sign up – we need you!