Community building opportunities abound

Public Foods, a community fridge and pantry being launched by Glebe St. James United Church, Ottawa Community Housing and Carleton University, is under construction by volunteers at 415 MacLaren.  
Photos: Susan Palmai and Marisa Romano

By Susan Palmai

We all care deeply about our beloved city of Ottawa and specifically our neighbourhoods – the Glebe and Centretown. Further, we treasure our citizens, some more vulnerable than ourselves.

If you are an early riser, an opportunity to help others awaits at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Bank Street in the heart of the Glebe. Volunteers are needed to provide breakfast to youth aged 16 to 24 years. Haven Too is an overnight shelter, part of Fourth Avenue Baptist Outreach running Wednesdays and Thursdays. Youth are welcomed in for a warm meal at 9 p.m., given a safe refuge for the night and then a nutritional breakfast before they leave in the morning.

Volunteers arrive at 7:15 a.m. make coffee and serve juice, cereal, toast, eggs, fruit and anything else of their choosing. Dishes and cleanup are usually finished by 8:45. We currently have very capable volunteers who would love to work with new folks who are looking to make a small difference in the lives of young people. Two staff members of Haven Too are always present.

A second opportunity awaits at 415 MacLaren Street in the form of the Community Fridge and Pantry, called Public Foods. Many cities across the country have outdoor community fridges which operate under the mantra Take What You Need – Leave What You Can.

Thousands of kilos of food waste in our city is a disturbingly large problem, constantly increasingly. Grocery stores, restaurants and similar businesses throw away food from which others could benefit. Community fridges and pantries address this problem by accepting the surplus and everyone benefits.

Glebe St. James United Church, Ottawa Community Housing and Carleton University have joined forces to begin such a program in Centretown. Arlington Five Café has generously donated a fridge for the project. Once opened, hopefully by summer, we will be looking for community collaborators: restaurants and grocery stores to offer food; individuals to stock the fridge, check on it daily and take on other tasks associated with our project.

If you see yourself as a volunteer at either of these projects, please let me know at

Susan Palmai is chair of the Outreach Team at Glebe St. James United Church, which participates in many community outreach initiatives such as the Centretown Emergency Food Centre, Centre 507 and Carlington Community Chaplaincy.

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