Last week I requested a meeting with a client and suggested Monday. The time I asked for was 11:00, have a meeting and then go for lunch. She told me the only time she wasn't free Monday was between 11:30 and 1 because she was volunteering serving lunch at the Calgary Drop-In Centre. She told me I should come. I said sure.
We met at the parking lot across the street and walked in. You can't get into the centre unless you're an employee, volunteer or have been approved entry (by way of bio-metrics). Up the stairs and into the volunteer holding room we went.
Jorge came in and explained to us all that the centre is now 10 years old and originally was meant to house around 500 people/night but has been expanded to house almost 1200 people. Many of these people are working homeless, in transition or down on their luck in general.
The kitchen has a staff of 2 and welcomes volunteers from their client base and various volunteers from in and around Calgary to make meal services work. There were approximately 15-16 people there today and they had 8 in the kitchen and 8 out serving the meals.
Jorge explained to us that the clients come and sit down at a table prior to the meal times and that the volunteers bring the food to the table instead of making people go through a line. Portions are controlled and it also gives the clients a certain amount of dignity.
We were serving the tables today. The kitchen team rations out the food and then puts the plates up on the counter. The servers grab the cutlery from a bin, put it on a plate and then start serving the meals. During the meal, an announcement came on to thank the volunteers and everyone gives a round of applause.
I have to say everyone was extremely appreciative of the meal they were served, quite friendly and made the experience amazing. When we (the volunteers) were walking back through the tables to go retrieve our stuff from the volunteer room, we received another round of applause the whole time we were walking out. Tears were in my eyes and everyone was saying "thank you so much" - person after person was so grateful for us being there.
From what I can see and what I learned, the Drop In Centre relies heavily on volunteers and I plan on going back as often as I can. It is humbling and rewarding knowing that I'm giving back to my community. It's also nice to see that the people who go there are being treated with respect and dignity and kindness.
I think Calgary is an awesome place to live and it made me really happy to be able to give back.