Local group providing weekly homemade meals to Kingston Youth Shelter

Dinner provided to the Kingston Youth Shelter by the Friday Night Supper Club on Friday, Aug 14, 2020. Photo by Kingston Youth Shelter

A group of four Kingston residents are collaborating to provide weekly dinners to the Kingston Youth Shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called “The Friday Night Supper Club,” the initiative aims to foster an interest and taste for fresh, homemade food among the shelter’s residents, as well as a sense of community.

The donors, Cathy, Robin, Nancy and Dave, wish to be known by their first names only. Vivienne Parent, a Family Mediation Worker at the shelter said the initiative has been very well-received.

“Basically Cathy, who works in social services, reached out to us and asked if we would be interested in getting homemade meals every Friday,” Parent said. “We loved the idea, and they’ve been doing it now for months.”

“They’re really community-oriented,” Parent added. “They wanted to give the youth something to look forward to every week, especially when they’d to be in quarantine.”

When COVID-19 restrictions came into effect in Kingston at the end of March, the Kingston Youth Shelter moved from its regular location on Brock St. to a City-owned building on Lower Union Street. This meant each youth could have their own private room in which to quarantine for two weeks upon intake, rather than the communal, dorm-style space they lived in on Brock Street.

Parent said the mandatory quarantine was challenging, but that the community has stepped in to help.

“The United Way and a lot of other partners in the city gave us TVs, all kinds of fun stuff to keep people entertained while they had to be primarily in their rooms,” Parent said. “It’s been very different from the shelter on Brock, where they live much more communally.”

The Supper Club provides an active, hands-on dinner experience, Cathy said. “The intent of each meal is that the youth participate in the ‘building’ of their dinner or dessert,” she said, “whether it be tacos, make-your-own pizza, pulled pork sandwiches, create-your-own sundae or strawberry shortcake.”

“Though the pandemic has been difficult and challenging for everyone,” she added, “some positive things have come out of it: Enjoy the simple things in life; it’s better to give than receive; and, most importantly, treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Youth Shelter remains on Lower Union Street

The Lower Union Street location was provided to the Kingston Youth Shelter by the City of Kingston, Parent said. The capacity is slightly larger, with 18 rooms rather than 15.

“COVID-19 is definitely challenging but it was a great move to Lower Union,” Parent said. “It was great to get that building so we could keep serving youth and keep them safe.”

The COVID-19 restrictions on youth residents have loosened, Parent said, as viral prevalence in the area subsides. Quarantine is no longer required. Youth can leave the shelter for appointments or to see friends, so long as they’re being safe, and responding to particular questions upon return, Parent said.

The Brock Street shelter has been modified, meanwhile, for better COVID-19 safety. Parent said the rooms have had barriers added, and they’ve received supplies and donations of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The Youth Shelter will also have to operate at a decreased capacity, she said, when they move back to that location.

“We are probably moving back in September, but it really depends on how things go in this area. With COVID, if we get another outbreak, we may stay a little longer,” she said.

Through all the uncertainty, Parent said the Friday Night Supper Club has created a sense of consistency, and community for the youth at the shelter.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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