Lighthouse Soup Kitchen Receives Trillium Grant

By John Swartz

The Lighthouse Community Services and Supportive Housing group announced Friday morning they received a $149,100 Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The Lighthouse opened their new, Queen Street housing and soup kitchen operation in July and the grant money allowed them to outfit the kitchen to commercial standards, furnish the cafeteria, subsidize salaries of chef Stu Stark and kitchen staff and the salary for a student to prepare a report on operations next spring.

Stark, who until last week was working out of the old Peter Street facility, with its standard, home-sized kitchen, expressed his enthusiasm for the improved working environment at the press conference.

Lighthouse sous chef, Bob Nash getting lunch ready.

“You guys provided a beautiful kitchen. We’re really excited to get going here. We’re about half way, rockin’ right now and when we get everything in another couple of weeks and we get everybody here the community’s really going to enjoy the step up for the homeless. It’s going to be fantastic,” said Stark, who has been with the Lighthouse for 2 years.

“This is so much nicer than our last kitchen. It’s going to be better food. It’s going to be healthier food. It’s going to be more nutritious and it’s going to be what these people need. This is a much safer, nicer environment for them that they can hopefully forget the troubles that are going on around them for at least an hour, hour and a half, they can come and get a meal and the community can move on and the people that are housed here can relax and move into the rest of their programming and feel more comfortable about the way things are going. So, thank you very much.”

Lighthouse volunteer Verve Smith (facing camera)

The soup kitchen program relies on many volunteers to turn out meals and while the press conference was going on two volunteers were boxing up chicken dinners for the Sunday hotel meal program.

“We have incredible volunteers here and I’m so glad you are all able to see the functioning of what is going because what was going on behind applying for the grant was to provide more food for the community,” said Lighthouse development and communications manager, Lynn Thomas,

One of the volunteers, Verva Smith has been volunteering for 8 years and since the COVID-19 emergency has taken only one day off.

“It’s just wild how important they are to us and how much they help,” said Stark.

Ontario Trillium Foundation grant review team member Tammy Deschambault.

As is usual for Ontario Trillium Foundation grant announcements, a representative of the OTF is on hand for the hand-off, but since the pandemic no representatives have been able to appear personally for announcements – until Friday. Tammy Deschambault, of Orillia, is a member of the grant review team and she made the first representation for the OTF since last March. In her remarks she said the OTF made 1,300 grants during the pandemic and described the purpose of the special grant fund OTF administers.

“Our Resilient Communities Fund program is helping groups we have come to rely on for so many essential programs and activities in our communities,’” Deschambault said. Trillium grants were created in 1982 and Deschambault made tribute to the creator of the foundation. “I’d like to acknowledge the late premier, Bill Davis, for giving the green light for our work.” Davis passed away last Sunday at the age of 92.

Operating the service has been difficult for staff and volunteers during the pandemic. They weren’t allowed to use the old facility, other than for preparing meals.

“Since COVID struck we haven’t had anybody inside. We are so small over there we could not have anybody inside,” said Lighthouse executive director Linda Goodall. They have been using a local hotel to provide overnight shelter, while doing meal prep for bag lunches at the old facility. “As of yesterday we moved the whole bag lunch program here.”

The new 102 seat cafeteria at the Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse was also limited for how many lunches they could serve (70,000 in 2020). There was only room for 36 people on Peter Street. Now they have 102 seats at new tables to do so. While the facility was official opened in July, it was not the case until this coming Monday anyone could be housed at the new facility, 20 supportive housing units will have occupants.

“The whole purpose of this is to be able to help them to be permanently housed and independently,” said Goodall. Recipients of housing have to be what is termed chronically homeless – for more than 6 months – and there were more than 60 applicants. By month’s end the short-term overnight shelter should be operating. Since March 2020 there have been 605 different people using the shelter program.

That still doesn’t mean anyone other than supportive housing residents can use the cafeteria – yet.

”We just can’t open up the café until COVID protocols will allow (it),” said Goodall.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Lighthouse chef, Stu Stark, getting lunch ready in a brand new kitchen.


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