Hunger can happen to anyone, at any time. For Trinity Community Table (TCT) in Cambridge, the need to feed the hungry has never been greater.
Since 1992, TCT, a community outreach program, has provided nourishing noontime meals for the most vulnerable in the community.
But, with an increase in demand, comes an even greater call for volunteers to help make it possible.
Volunteers at TCT prepare and serve meals for up to 175 guests in the parish hall of Trinity Anglican Church every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
“September for us was the biggest month in terms of the number of meals served. In 30 years, since Trinity Community Table began, this is the most that we have ever seen,” said Bonny Jensen, chair at TCT.
As of the end of October, TCT served 16,115 meals, over a 30.8 per cent increase compared to last year.
“We are serving over 140 meals a day. That is probably our average, with about 450 meals per week, but sometimes this is higher,” Jensen said.
“People are hungry.”
The pandemic has had a huge impact on service delivery. TCT has responded by moving to takeout only.
After receiving a donation of a heating unit and 5,000 containers, from the Cambridge Food Bank, TCT has been able to continue serving hot meals.
Today, TCT is ready to resume in-person services.
“We had to make changes because of COVID-19. We went from 15 to 18 volunteers down to three,” Jensen said.
“Now, we are trying to get back to normality. But if we want to take our services back inside the church, we need more people to help us do that. Many volunteers could not help during COVID-19.”
And, Jensen said, there are still volunteers who do not feel safe, especially now with a resurgence.
“We’ve done this for many years, but right now, we are really in need for more volunteers,” Jensen said.
With winter coming, Jensen says the need to have a warm meal is vital for those most vulnerable in the community, and so is the need to be warm and dry.
“We really don’t want to see another winter outside,” Jensen said.
“We enjoy bringing everyone inside. Especially in the winter months.”
Jensen says some people will have a nap near the radiators and warm up or wait for their clothing to dry.
“It feels good to be able to do that. It’s good for the guests but it’s just as rewarding for the volunteers. They get so much out of it. It’s heartwarming to be able to help,” Jensen said.
TCT held a Thanksgiving dinner for last month. And with the Christmas season just around the corner, Jensen says it’s time to reach out to the community as volunteers gear up for the annual Christmas dinner.
Trinity Community Table has provided free Christmas meals for many years. Due to the pandemic, last year, take-out meals were served.
Last holiday season, 160 hot dinners served. Guests also received gift bags with hats, mitts, toiletries, and treats.
This year, the community Christmas dinner will be held on Dec 23.
“We also hand out bags full of hats, mitts, socks. We have a volunteer who makes goodie bags full of sweets. She’s famous for these, and also someone who has collected 149 pairs of socks,” Jensen said.
In an effort to attract more volunteers, TCT is reaching out to other faith communities and organizations.
“We also reached out to Volunteer Waterloo Region, and we are getting people coming in. We need help with set up, clean-up including washing floors, cooking, and serving,” Jensen said.
“Our church is smaller now, as are many other traditional churches. So, we thought, what do we do? So, we are about to send out letters to all Anglican churches in the region, other church communities, as well as mosques and temples who might want to help.”
Jensen said TCT wants to become more inclusive.
“We want to reflect the community. It does not look the same as it did 30 years ago. It would be great to see different cultures and backgrounds join us,” Jensen said.
Jensen says if there are high school students ready to commit on a regular basis, they too, are welcome to volunteer.
“And if someone want to help with social media, Instagram, or Facebook, we could use the help,” she said.
In September, TCT celebrated its 30th anniversary and has been nominated for a Community Impact Award.
“It’s very exciting and we are so happy to be nominated,” Jensen said.
And in December, TCT looks forward to its annual fundraiser with a performance by solo Canadian folk singer/songwriter and guitarist, Jacob Moon.
“We’ve had three Jacob Moon concerts here, full of beautiful Christmas music. The lights are in the church, and it really is special,” Jensen said.
Trinity Community Table anticipates serving over 18,000 meals by the end of the year.
“We are always seeing new people,” Jensen said.
“We see and we know that the need is there.”