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The Gathering Place outreach program aims to expand in new year

A food outreach program started earlier this year by The Gathering Place is looking to increase the number of meals delivered to the vulnerable population. 

Since the summer, The Gathering Place has been partnering with community churches and organizations to provide meals to people who have been affected by the pandemic. 

Dennis Chippa, executive director of The Gathering Place, says he and his staff have taken time to identify groups that are in need of support. 

“They’re groups that we probably should see and we don’t,” he said, “A vulnerable senior doesn’t want to wait in line at the grocery store. They’re scared, and if we can provide some meals for them, they won’t be scared.”

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The outreach team has delivered meals to seniors living in apartment buildings, people with mental health struggles who live on their own, OutLoud, and people in the PADDLE Program among others. 

Last week, nearly 500 meals were provided, equalling around 85 pounds of food. This is on top of the three meals a day provided to people who come to The Gathering Place’s location. 

Chippa says he is looking to bump up the numbers of the outreach program by another 200 meals in the new year.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a problem with it, to be honest. I think the demand for our outreach will increase in the winter,” he said. 

As Ontario is in its a province-wide shutdown amid the second wave of COVID-19, Chippa expects food insecurity to increase. 

“There are a lot of people having trouble financially,” Chippa noted. “With the second round of the pandemic, people are concerned. People don’t want to leave their apartment buildings.”

Chippa says he is in the process of enlisting the help of some churches in West Ferris to assist in the outreach delivery program. 

The plans for the new year follow what was a busy Christmas season for The Gathering Place. 

Normally, the community kitchen would close early on Christmas Eve and not reopen until after Boxing Day. 

This year, The Gathering Place’s kitchen was used to cook the Community Christmas Dinner which was held at Memorial Gardens. 

“We’ve been busy since April. We knew we were going to be busy. It was just another thing to add onto what we were doing,” Chippa said.

Also happening in the new year will be The Gathering Place’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk. 

Chippa says he will be hammering out the final logistics of what the walk will look like during the pandemic. He confirms that it will be a “hybrid style” walk between in-person and online participation. 

“It’s still a work in progress,” Chippa said. 

The Gathering Place will be closed on New Year’s day but will be providing meals again on January 2. 

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