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'Hearts of gold' shine through at Out of the Cold Cafe

Bradford resident Doreen Pennell says a lot of the guests she helps at the local cafe have become friends
Doreen Pennell, Out of the Cold Cafe volunteer

For Bradford woman Doreen Pennell, volunteering every week at the Out of the Cold Cafe is something she is happy to do. 

When the cafe first opened a year and a half ago in the St. Mary's building on Frederick Street, it was open seven days a week to help serve the community in need, during the winter months. 

Due to the demand for services amid the increased risk of homelessness during the pandemic, it is now open year-round under the leadership of Jodi Greenstreet through WOW Living, with a handful of volunteers like Pennell helping out each and every day. 

"We did four hours shifts initially, and it was a lot," said Pennell about the cafe's early days. 

Because the cafe doesn't have an industrial kitchen, they relied on many of the local restaurants to bring in food for the lunch program, many of who were eager to step up and help. 

"It was hard for the restaurants, but so many of them stuck with us," said Pennell. "We have several people who have taken the food handling course and so now they are able to cook at some legitimate kitchen."

Whether she is helping organize lunches or signing in guests, Pennell says there isn't one job she doesn't enjoy doing at the cafe. 

"When you're at the door, you easily get to know the names of the people," she said. "If you're in the kitchen you get to put smiles on people's faces by giving them so much and maybe a few things to take home."

She enjoys the company, sitting and chatting with guests as they come in every week for a coffee, lunch and socialization. 

"A lot of the guests are now friends," said Pennell. 

"We have had so many people help individuals fill in forms to apply for apartments, or get a job," she said. 

She remembers helping one senior who didn't have a computer, book his COVID vaccine last year and used her personal email address and phone number to register. 

"Everybody here would do that," she said. 

In the upstairs part of the building is A Hand Up Clothing room, where guests are free to shop at no cost. Pennell and the rest of the volunteers will often help guests of the cafe find the clothing they need for the current weather conditions. 

"The volunteers here have hearts of gold," said Pennell. 

The Out of the Cold Cafe is open from May - October every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and November - April, every day from 10 a.m. -  2 p.m. 

To learn more about the Out of the Cold Cafe, click here

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Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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