A free community dinner at a downtown Welland church isn’t just a chance for people to enjoy a hearty meal — they can also socialize and make friends while knowing the community cares about them.
There are also social opportunities that arise from attending.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in here,” said Eileen Ballogh, who also admitted she puts the dinner on her calendar as a result of financial challenges that come with being unemployed.
“I don’t have that much money and I enjoy visiting with all the people,” she said on Thursday night at Holy Trinity Anglican Church’s dinner — offered the third Thursday of each month throughout the year — but part of the Harvest Kitchen program from November to March.
John Wellwood, one of the lead organizers at Holy Trinity Anglican Church’s dinner, said their effort every three weeks is unique – offering a food and hygiene bank at the same time for patrons to take advantage of before or after they eat dinner.
More than 150 people fill their bellies with a full-course meal. Then they are able to collect items they may need such as diapers, feminine hygiene products and various toiletries every three weeks.
Socks and winter accessories were also being handed out Thursday night through donations made by the local Socks for Change charity.
Wellwood said there are familiar faces year-round and that a large percentage of those who visit are from the downtown core — many finding it convenient that the dinner is such a short distance from home.
“It’s not that we’re better — it’s that we’re close,” he said about the turnout and other dinners around the city.
Single people, couples, children, grandparents are all part of a “very broad demographic” who attend the dinners, said Wellwood.
Welland resident Don Huneault said he depends on Harvest Kitchen meals most nights in the week — as well as the food bank when it’s offered at Holy Trinity.
“If I don’t have enough money, I usually come once a month to get groceries and the meal,” he said on Thursday night, also adding that he is from the downtown area and appreciates being able to sit with people he knows when he attends.
“It’s good when it’s downtown. We get together and make friends,” he said.
Asked about what he thinks is the biggest challenge in the city, he said it’s homeless people finding the resources to turn things around.
“It’s difficult for them — looking for housing,” he said.
Holy Trinity Church has also offered a free Christmas Day meal for the last three years.
Times and locations for Harvest Kitchen
- Sundays 5p.m. at Central United Church until March 29 (12 Young St.)
- Mondays 5:30 p.m. at Eglise du Sacre Coeur until March 30 (72 rue Empire)
- Tuesdays 5:30 p.m. at Hope Centre until March 30 (570 King St.)
- Wednesdays at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church until March 25 (307 Niagara St.)
- First and second Thursdays at 5 p.m. at Hope Centre, third at Holy Trinity (77 Division St.), fourth and fifth at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church (259 Beatrice St.) until March 26
- Fridays until 5 p.m. at Southridge Church (414 River Rd.) until March 27.