Hello to all my fellow OOTC Volunteers!
I hope you’re all well and enjoying the last throes of summer.  Soon the leaves will be changing color and 7 weeks from now we will be at St. Matthew’s greeting our guests for the first OOTC session of the 2016-2017 season.
Changes this year
This year the program will run much the same as in the past with a few exceptions.  As you may know, we share the banquet hall and kitchen with Wychwood Open Door Drop-In Centre. Over the last 6 months they have had a complete turnover of staff from management right through to their chef and this is likely to affect some of our procedures.  We have been working with WOD through the summer to make sure that both of our programs’ needs and expectations are met.    
Food Handler Certificate online course
We also met with Toronto Health.  They have suggested that we bring our kitchen practices up to the same standards as other programs like ours and add a person with a Food Handler Certificate from 2pm to 8pm each Thursday.  To meet this new requirement, we are asking for six volunteers to take the Food Handler Certificate online course.  Once this group is confirmed we can set up a schedule for the season.  If necessary, we can split the shift into two 3 hour shifts and each Food Handler should be available for two shifts each month.
The Food Handler course is mostly common sense and can easily be completed by any of us. The course will take about 4 to 6 hours to complete including the study component and the exam itself.   The cost of the course will be covered by OOTC.   Go towww.foodsafetytraining.ca/ for more information and contact me if you have other questions or want to commit to this new position at OOTC.
Volunteer Sign-up
The program will run on Thursdays from November 3, 2016 through to March 30, 2017.  Please let us know if you are planning to return this year by filling out the Volunteer Form at 
Cooking Teams
We are putting together the schedule for the cooking teams so if you are interested in making a meal this season please contact me in the next week to secure a date.
New Volunteer Orientation
Lastly, if you know someone who would like to start volunteering with us please forward this email to them along with our site address www.firstinterfaithoutofthecold.com and invite them to the New Volunteers Orientation at 7:30pm on October 20th at St. Matthew’s United Church. 
We will send one or two more communications out before November 3rd so please keep an eye on your inbox for more news from First Interfaith Out of the Cold.
Hope to see you all soon,
Lynda Champagne
Program Coordinator


We hope this finds you all well. The program started last week, just in time for this chilly weather. It was great to reconnect with many veteran volunteers and also welcome newcomers and it was bittersweet to greet so many of our “regular” guests. We were so glad to see them and sad that they still require our program.

This is the first newsletter of the 2013-2014 season. We’ll send them out occasionally to keep you informed of what’s happening at First Interfaith Out of the Cold. Please read through the important items below.


Our supply of gently-used clothes has dwindled to nothing and the Clothing Boutique is in urgent need of more offerings. With the weather turning cold, we need clothes that will keep our guests warm in the coming months. Specifically, we need: men’s and women’s winter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and hoodies, sweatpants, long-sleeved T-shirts, hats, gloves and mitts. Please do not bring any business attire such as dress pants or dress shirts, as they’re not at all useful to our guests.
Please bring in any mini-sized toiletries, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant and also toothbrushes.

Volunteers are urgently needed to help out with shopping for the program on Thursdays. This involves a 90 minute shopping trip to No Frills to purchase perishable items such as milk, margarine, cheese, bologna, etc. These items must be dropped off at the church on Thursdays between 12 noon and 2:45 p.m. Immediate cash reimbursement will be made upon delivery. If you’re interested, please contact us at volinterfaith@gmail.com

We’re starting a new computer access program for our guests called Get Connected. If you’re knowledgeable about using email, surfing the net and other basic computer skills and would like to work with our guests in short shifts between 4:30 and 6:00 or 8:00 -10:00, please contact us at volinterfaith@gmail.com.

We’ve had good coverage for the Dinner shift so it’s best to make arrangements ahead of time with Sharna or Mary at volinterfaith@gmail.com, if you’re planning to bring along any extra friends.


It’s cold and flu season, so please make sure to wash your hands before and after coming to the program. Consider getting a free flu shot. Many pharmacies across the city offer the shot. If you’re not well, it’s best to stay home and take care of yourself and not spread the illness to our vulnerable guests.

First Interfaith Out of the Cold
St. Matthew’s United Church, 729 St. Clair Avenue West

Every Thursday 3:00 p.m. to Friday 8:00 a.m.
November – March



We hope this finds you all well during this flu-y winter.  As of Feb. 21st we will have operated for 17 weeks out of our 22-week season. The program is running smoothly and we’re generally at capacity most weeks, with a slight increase in numbers this year.  It’s only with your on-going participation and support each week that we can successfully feed and shelter the folks who use our program.


Did you know that our program runs almost entirely on donations?  It’s quite remarkable when you think about the level of comfort and care we’re able to offer our guests which is only made possible by the generosity of individuals, organizations and businesses. We’d like to acknowledge and thank all those who have contributed and we’ve created a new section on our website, under the heading Donors and Supporters, for that purpose. Please go to http://www.firstinterfaithoutofthecold.com/donors-supporters/ to view the list.

You might also find it interesting to read Lynda Champagne’s description of just what an $18 donation can buy.  Just click on An Invitation to Donate in the 3rd box on the right of our website at http://www.firstinterfaithoutofthecold.com/


Check out this fascinating CBC radio documentary on the value of something we don’t spend much time thinking about, but is so important to the well-being of people who live on the street – socks.

“Take a moment and think about socks. Yours are probably cosy. They’re probably dry. And they keep your feet feeling pretty good. Next time your toe pokes through one, you’ll probably toss it. And next time the dryer devours a sock, you’ll probably ditch its mate. Socks are cheap, disposable, easily replaced. Unless you live on the street. For homeless people, those little pieces of clothing are mittens of comfort. Hard to come by, easily ruined. Never taken for granted. Good as gold.  Frank Faulk took to the streets of Toronto in search of a new perspective on socks.”




Cuts to affordable housing, shelter and homeless support were in fact, made in the new city budget on Jan. 16th.  What this will mean for housing, shelters, and homelessness prevention and support is unclear.  For a detailed analysis of the City budget in relation to affordable housing, shelters and homeless support, visit the Social Planning Toronto website at:  http://www.socialplanningtoronto.org/news/january-24-new-city-budget-analysis/



Each week we distribute lots of gently-used clothes and our guests rely on our supply to stay dry and warm. We’re always in need of:

  • clean, gently used or new, men’s and women’s winter clothes, boots, coats, jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, mitts, sweaters, casual pants, sweats, t-shirts, new socks and new underwear. Please, no children’s clothes, summer clothes, suits or fancy dress clothes.
  • mini-sized toiletries, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant and also toothbrushes.

Donations can be dropped off on Thursdays, any time after 2:00 pm in the basement of the church.


We continue to have good coverage for the Dinner shift so it’s best to make arrangements ahead of time with Sharna or Mary at volinterfaith.outofthecold@gmail.com, if you’re planning to bring along any extra friends. All the other shifts are running smoothly and are well covered.

Reading Weeks and March Break are coming up.  Please let us know at the Volunteer Desk if you’re planning to be away.


Cold and flu season is still upon us, so please make sure to wash your hands before and after coming to the program. It may still be worth getting a flu shot, which may still be available, free of charge at Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacies. If you’re not well, it’s best to stay home and take care of yourself and not spread the illness to our vulnerable guests.


We hope this finds you all well and looking forward to a happy holiday season.   The program has gotten off to a successful start and we’re in full swing.   We very much appreciate your on-going support and participation.  This second newsletter is filled with important information so please take just a few minutes to give it a read.
Every year our volunteer, Sonny, sells Christmas tress to the public and then generoulsy donates some of the proceeds to our program and to other Out of the Cold programs.  When buying your tree, please consider buying from Sonny.  You’ll get a beautiful tree to grace your home and help provide warmth and comfort to our guests at the same time. You’ll find Sonny’s trees at the following four locations. The lots are open from Nov 30th to Dec 23rd from 10 am to 8 pm :
  • Behind St Peter’s Church on Markham St just north of Bloor – supporting our prorgram
  • The No Frills lot on Alberta Ave. north of St Clair, east of Oakwood – supporting our program
  • Eastminister Church at Danforth and Jackman – supporting Eastminiser OOTC
  • Dairy Queen  – on Danforth Road near Danforth Avenue – suppoorting Northern Mosaic OOTC
·         Our supply of gently-used clothes has dwindled and the Clothing Boutique is in urgent need of more offerings.  With the weather turning cold, we need clothes that will keep our guests warm in the coming months.  Specifcally, we need:
  • men’s and women’swinter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and hoodies, sweatpants, long-sleeved Tshirts, hats, gloves and mitts.  Please do not bring any business attire like dress pants or dress shirts, as they’re not at all useful to our guests.
  • we have a special request for men’s winter boots or hiking boots in size 11½, for a guest who has a badly healed broken ankle.
We also need:
  • mini-sized toiletries, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant and also toothbrushes.
  • any extra holiday baking or treats.  They’ll add some extra cheer for our guests at this time of year.
  • extra Christmas cards would also be appreciated, as we assist those guests who’d like to connect with their families and friends.
Card playing is a popular socialization activity at Out of the Cold and our supply was been exhausted. We’ve been offered a gross of 144 decks (only a small box!) from Casino Rama but we need someone to pick them up.  If you can do that, please contact Sharna or Mary at volinterfaith.outofthecold@gmail.com and we’ll give you the directions you’ll need.
We’ve had good coverage for the Dinner shift so it’s best to make arrangements ahead of time with Sharna or Mary (see contact details above) if you’re planning to bring along any extra friends.
Volunteers are needed for the following shifts. Please contact Sharna or Mary if you’re able to help out.
  • Socialization shift from 8:00 – 10:00
  • Late Ktichen from 10:00 p.m.- midnight
  • Reception, on an on-call basis.
The program will operate in the week between Christmas and New Year’s and many volunteers will be away but the guests will be here.  Please let us know at the Volunteer Desk when you arrive in the coming weeks whether you’ll be attending on Dec. 27th.  Your participation will be very much needed.
It’s cold and flu season, so please make sure to wash your hands before and after coming to the program. Consider getting a flu shot. Many pharmacies offer the shot and the City of Toronto Public Health schedule can be found at www.toronto.ca/flu shots. There’s no cost for the shot.  For some comic relief, check out Rick Mercer’s rant at http://www.rickmercer.com/Rick-s-Rant.aspx.  If you’re not well, it’s best to stay home and take care of yourself and not spread the illness to our vulnerable guests.
Our program is almost run entirely by volunteers and supported by generous donations of time and money.  This month, we offer our thanks and appreciation to
  • All of you for coming out each week.
  • Greg, who has done a most amazing job fundraising for the program. Greg has been responsible for bringing in $4,450 in donations  so far this year -through organizing a carwash at Loblaws at Yonge and Yonge Blvd.and a firefighters boot drive, soliciting a sizable donation from a neighbour and the FireFighters Association and getting gift cards from Loblaws, not to mention supplying the food and cooking two dinners!  Greg brings his enthusiatic, “can-do” attitude to the task and the program is the grateful beneficiary of his efforts.
  • Janos Csepreghi , Executive Member of Toronto Fire Fighters Association Local 3888 and the recruit class, who put our their boots at Loblaws on St. Clair W. and raised $1800.
  • Pain Perdu, World Class Bakery and Brazil Bakery for providing bread and pastries every week.
  • The November cooking teams – the Portuguese Prayer Group who cooked two dinners, Sharna with friends and family, a Men’s Division International affiliated group with Phil and crew.
  • Stan at White House Meats, 2978 Bloor St. W., for providing a deep discount on the meat for Phil’s meal.


The 2012-13 season at the First Interfaith Out of the Cold program has begun!   Our doors opened on cold and rainy Thursday Nov.1st.

To keep you informed about news and important information as we proceed, we’ll be sending out a monthly newsletter, with occasional more frequent updates as needed.  Please take a few moments to give it a quick read.

Also, please check out our new website at www.firstinterfaithoutofthecold.com for full information about the program and regular updates.


The first night is always a bit quiet and last week also coincided with the delivery of support checks when many of our guests prefer to be elsewhere.  As a result we had 58 guests for dinner and 30 stayed overnight.  When full, we serve about 120 for dinner (plus up to 30 latecomers) and 45 guests stay over.  We expect the numbers to rise in coming weeks.  It was quiet in other ways too.  It was a peaceful evening with a great dinner, Footcare and Clothing, conversation and clay sculpture, and there were no disruptions.


Many veteran volunteers and newcomers attended on Nov. 1st.   It’s always great to reconnect and catch up with people who have attended before and we’re thrilled to welcome new folks who are eager to join.

We were short-staffed on the Set-Up shift, but managed to get the tasks done.  Reception was well-looked after. The Dinner shift looked dicey at first but filled out just as dinner started.   IF YOU INTEND TO SERVE DINNER, PLEASE ARRIVE NO LATER THAN 6:15 FOR TABLE ASSIGNMENT.   If you arrive later, it makes table assignment difficult and also we can’t insure that there will be a job for you when you do arrive.  Please be sure to sign out when you leave and also indicate whether you’ll be attending the following week. We have some new Footcare volunteers to replace others who have left and the Clothing crew has also seconded some help from other shifts.   The post-Dinner shifts were sparsely covered and we look forward to seeing more volunteers attend in coming weeks.


Unexpectedly, we still have a few vacant weeks on the schedule for this season and we need to fill them ASAP!!  If you’ve already expressed interest and talked with Lynda Champagne or another Steering Committee member about cooking a meal, please contact Lynda immediately. You can reach her at infointerfaith.outofthecold@gmail.com or lyndachampagne@yahoo.ca.


Parking in the church lot is only permitted in available spots.  Please don’t double park or block other cars and most importantly, any driveways.  This is a serious fire and safety hazard.  There’s metered parking on St. Clair after 6:00 p.m. and free parking on surrounding side streets.


The program is in particular need of mugs and soup bowls.   The selection in our Clothing Boutique has dwindled, so please check your wardrobe and bring in clean and gently-used outerwear, men’s and women’s pants, sweatshirts and t-shirts.  We do not need summer wear, children’s clothes or business attire– like shirts, dress pants or skirts.


On Wednesday, November 14 Blythwood Road Baptist Out of the Cold is hosting an evening with Greg Paul – see invitation attached. They would love our volunteers to join them.  They believe Greg’s stories from the front-line will both inspire and inform volunteers and help them to understand and relate better to the guests we serve.  Greg is the pastor of Sanctuary, a downtown church that ministers to the poor and marginalized. He is also a prize-winning author and a speaker in demand all over North America. Please call Jennifer Frank at 416 487-4571 or email her at office@blythwood.org  if you’d like to attend.


So many people donate their time, skills, money, products and energy to make this program work. Everyone’s contribution is critical, valued and truly appreciated.   First Interfaith Out of the Cold really couldn’t happen without you.  Thank you. And we’d like to say a specific thank you to those below.

Phil Pellat is member of the Steering Committee and he’s devoted countless hours and brought his great marketing and technological skills to build and manage our new website.  Phil has brought us into the 21st century and finally made it possible for us to communicate effectively.  Phil also produced our professional and inspiring promotional video.  Please check out both the website and the video at http://www.firstinterfaithoutofthecold.com/.  Phil also organizes all the shopping for the program and he insures that we have all the food and supplies we need.

The Portuguese Prayer Group cooked the first dinner of the program this week, as they have for the past 20 years.  As always it was wonderfully delicious.  And one of their members donated the money for all the food for the meal, as she has for the past 20 years.   A generous and tasty tradition continues!

We’re grateful to have the continued support of local bakeries that provide bread and pastries to the program each week.  Thanks to Brazil Bakery, Pain Perdu and World’s Best Bakery.


On May 6, 2012, our long-serving and beloved Security chief, Joe O’Connell passed away suddenly.  Joe was a stalwart and caring member of our First Interfaith Out of the Cold team since the days at St. Peter’s.  He brought his tremendous wisdom, calm and skill to the program each year.  Joe would arrive in the afternoon to keep an eye on the guests as the program was setting up, he’d man the upstairs door in the bitter cold during the evening and do the walk around the grounds looking for stashed alcohol and drugs, he’d intercept trouble before it started and intercede with unruly guests when needed, treating them with dignity and respect. Joe would stay late to write up security briefing notes and he’d come again in the morning to insure the guests got off to a quiet day.  Joe was warm, thoughtful and dedicated in so many ways.  We were fortunate to have known him and to have benefited from his kindness and grace. We miss him greatly.  To read more about Joe and his remarkable life, go to http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/joseph-t-oconnell/article4469866/.


Greg Invitation General

Key Dates and Events
If you know someone who would like to volunteer this season please let them know about our upcoming new volunteer orientation, veteran volunteers need not attend… but there will be cookies!
Thursday October 24th, 2013 at 7:30 PM
St. Matthew’s United Church, 729 St. Clair W.
If you are new to the program and not able to attend the meeting, you can still participate by contacting Mary & Sharna
For volunteer opportunities and Information
Nov. 2, 2013 – CLEANING DAY
Volunteers are welcome and NEEDED for a few hours on cleaning day
Saturday November 2nd 10:00 AM at the church.
We will be washing mats and organizing so please dress in work clothes –
Please RSVP Lynda:
Of course the most important date of all – the start of our season
Thursday November 7, 2013 – see you there!

*****ACTION ITEMS*****
Please help us organize our volunteer resources effectively by completing this online form. Thanks!
Providing your latest email address will also help us update our email list for the newsletters.
Link to online form:
Please RSVP Lynda:







We are excited to announce Loblaws (3501 Yonge Street, South of York Mills) will be holding a BBQ / Car Wash fundraiser for our First Interfaith Out of The Cold program on Saturday, September 22 between 9am – 6pm

Last week when Lynda reminded our guests that this coming week would be the last week of the Out of the Cold program, someone asked “what do we do now?”


A good question, of course and I think she was voicing the anxiety of a lot of other people. Those who have been on the street for several years probably know about other resources; however those people who are new Out of the
Cold guests will need some help. We will try to have some information available at the registration desk. Fortunately, we share the space with the Wychwood Open Door Drop-in Centre and many of our guests are familiar with their program.


Our dinner meal last week was prepared by Greg Gilchrist, his family and friends. We had a great meal of tomato basil soup, ham steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Dessert was ice cream and pastries. This is the second meal
Greg organized this year. The first one was prepared by members of the Professional Firefighters Association of Toronto. We’re very pleased to tell you that Greg is joining our program steering committee next year.


Thanks also to our neighbour bakeries, Pain Perdu and World Class Bakers, for their generous donations.


Please don’t forget to sign-up for our Volunteer Appreciation Party. As in the past few years, it will be held at the Newman Centre, 89 St.George Street, the corner of St. George St. and Hoskins Ave. That’s directly across the road from the Robarts Library on the U of T. campus. The party starts at 6 pm. so you can find some parking on St. George St or Hoskin Ave. Don’t forget to watch the time on the parking meters! There is an underground parking garage on the east side of St. George that is part of the Rotman Business School.


You will receive by a separate email a survey we are doing to evaluate your experience at Out of the Cold. If you have already done this, many thanks, but we would like to hear from everyone.


See you Thursday-or Friday morning.

We’re pleased to report that our worries about a potential shortage of volunteers during the March Break week were for naught. We had a good turnout of volunteers and were able to keep all aspects of our program running at full capacity. Thanks to all who gave up a few hours of their break time last week.


Our dinner was prepared by the Portuguese Prayer Group led by Clara and Augustino. We had a hearty vegetable soup, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green peas and onions. Dessert was our usual ice cream and pastries. This was the sixth meal that this group prepared this year and they will be back again in a couple of weeks for the last dinner of the season on March 29.


Many guests took time to stop and compliment the cooks. We hear that our Out of the Cold program has a reputation for great food every week of the OOTC season.


Our after dinner snack tables included pastries from Pain Perdu, World Class Bakers and apples provided by Faye
and Paul.


We served 120 meals at dinner and another 10-12 meals to late-comers. We were at full capacity for guests staying
the night.


Despite the warm weather, people are still relying on Out of the Cold.


This week staff from the City of Toronto Shelter, Support and Housing office will be around to conduct brief interviews with some guests and volunteers. This office funds our Dixon Hall support services. Participation in these interviews is strictly voluntary and confidential.


Don’t forget to sign up for the Volunteer Appreciation Party on April 14!


See you Thursday or Friday morning.

This warm weather is a mixed blessing for our Out of the Cold guests. People tend to stay out on the streets longer than usual and when they decide to seek shelter the spaces may be taken, This is exactly what happened at St. Matthew’s last week. All of the OOTC spaces at both sites were filled early in the evening. Fortunately, we had enough food to give the latecomers a hot meal, and then they received a TTC token and directions to the city-run Assessment and Referral Centre downtown on Peter St. We assume they either stayed there overnight or were re-directed to another shelter such as Seaton House or the Fred Victor Mission. This scenario is further evidence of the need for more co-ordination between services.


Our meal was prepared through the generosity of the staff at OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) led by Michele Haber, a long-time OOTC volunteer. These folks prepared a meal of split pea and vegetable soup, a macaroni casserole, salad and dessert. We served over 130 meals and 59 guests stayed for the night.


Our neighbourhood bakeries, Pain Perdu and World Class Bakery contributed pastries and bread so our table was full until late into the evening. This is a reminder that our Volunteer Appreciation Party is scheduled for Saturday April 14 at the Newman Centre. Please see the sign-up sheet at the volunteer sign-up desk.


If you can’t do your regular shift during this School Break week, please let us know. If you have a friend or family member who wants to help at OOTC, this may the time to bring them along as we know some volunteers will be away.


See you Thursday or Friday morning.

Important Dates

Orientation for New Volunteers
Thursday October 19, 2017

7:30 pm. St. Matthew's United Church (no pre-registration required)

Thursday November 2, 2017
Program starts

Thursday December 21, 2017
Christmas at Out of the Cold

Thursday March 29, 2018
Program ends for season

Donors & Supporters

Click the link below to see the many organizations, businesses and individuals that have graciously provided their support!

Please contact us if you'd like to donate and support the program. Every contribution, big or small, has a significant impact on the service we can offer our guests.

List of Donors & Supporters >>

An Invitation To Donate >>

Here is a short documentary on the importance of clean dry socks for the homeless. A donation of socks goes a long way to providing much needed warmth and comfort to our guests.

Socks for the Homeless >>

Play our Trivia game!

Learn more about us!