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Inn From the Cold aids the homeless and hungry

By Justin Medve [1] and James Gaughan [2]

BELLEVILLE — Good faith and the smell of good food take over your senses when you walk into the warmth of Inn From the Cold.

The event has been hosted at Bridge Street United Church [3] for over a decade. This year, it started Monday and runs to Feb. 28.

Anyone in need of a hot meal or some company can drop in from 4 to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week.

Heather Seeger, who greets people at the door, says Inn From the Cold welcomes all kinds of diners.

“We have lots of people that come down for dinner that are certainly able to provide dinner for themselves, but they are alone. It’s wintertime and it’s grey and gloomy,” she said.

At 4:30 p.m., coffee and soup are served.

Attendees can chat and hopefully forget about the weather while they anticipate the 5 p.m. dinner.

There is also a table of winter apparel for those who are stuck outside. Some of it is donated by Knitters United, a club at the church that meets every other week through much of the year to knit warm items and, while Inn From the Cold runs, also meets every Saturday.

The volunteers work closely with the community and each other, Seeger said.

“It also benefits the volunteers that come out and give their time to this project. They meet a great deal of different people that they may not know from the community, and it’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst staff,” she said proudly.

Behind the scenes, food is steadily prepared and plated.

Michaela Collins, 13, enjoyed her first time volunteering outside of her usual cadets [12] events.

“It makes me feel good because you can tell they really appreciate it,” she said.

By 5:45 p.m., some are lined up for seconds.

The menu runs on a nine-day cycle to keep things fresh and enjoyable.

Co-organizer Sue Catherwood says the volunteers cook 120 servings each night, and the majority of it gets eaten.

“It’s excellent because Belleville has a pretty high food insecurity [15] number,” she said.

The food is mostly donated to the church by Good Samaritans and farmers. The program is advertised at Gleaners Food Bank [16] and the Salvation Army [17].

Unfortunately, said some of the volunteers on duty, some of the people who come for meals do not have anywhere to go afterward.

“I know that there are certain homeless shelters available, but there’s never enough,” Seeger said. “More beds (for the homeless) is always a good thing.”

For those who can’t attend the nightly supper, frozen meals are offered from 2 to 4 p.m. during the January-February duration of Inn From the Cold.

More information on Bridge Street United Church’s food-ministry programs can be found here [18].