The Owen Sound community came together one more time to celebrate the completion of a project that was made possible through the contributions of so many.
Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort held the grand opening for its new space on Friday with dozens of people in attendance, including many of the volunteers, tradespeople, community partners and others who helped make it possible.
OSHaRE executive director Colleen Trask Seaman said Friday’s event provided an opportunity to invite the community in to see the space and to thank everyone involved in the project.
“It has taken the whole community coming together to make OSHaRE the place that it is,” she said.
Friday’s grand opening included congratulations from local officials, tours of the facility, along with sparkling cider and cupcakes. The words used by those in attendance to describe the new space included “bright,” “welcoming” and “amazing.”
Trask Seaman said some of those same words are used by those who come to OSHaRE nightly to enjoy a hot and nutritious meal.
“They love the space, the brightness of it, it is warm and it feels like home here, which is great,” she said. “We have been able to do a lot more with our meals, which they are really enjoying.”
OSHaRE serves hot and nutritious meals to between 80 and 100 people between 5 and 6 p.m. each weekday. They also have a lunch-to-go program on Saturdays and stat holidays.
Trask Seaman said providing the people who come to OSHaRE with healthy meals is important, but the social benefits of eating together and having community in the space has been of equal importance. She said the opening Friday was a chance to celebrate the new space and the continued sense of community it provides.
“It is just a celebration, a celebration of people being able to come together, to enjoy a meal together and share a conversation and share their life moments,” she said.
OSHaRE moved to the 5,000-square-foot location at 946 3rd Ave. E. in early December after months of renovations. The location was occupied by the Salvation Army Thrift Store before it moved to the Sunset Strip earlier this year.
The soup kitchen had been located in the basement of the nearby Harmony Centre since it was formed in 2013, but made the move to the larger location mainly because the space allowed for the installation of a commercial kitchen, along with a walk-in fridge and freezer.
The additions allow OSHaRE to operate more efficiently and to offer more fresh fruit and vegetables to its clients, a suggestion that came out of a review of its operations conducted in partnership with the Grey Bruce Health Unit.
Trask Seaman said it has allowed them to utilize a Food Rescue program, which has been heavily supported by Zehrs, where food that the store is unable to sell is brought to OSHaRE and incorporated into their meals.
“It is definitely program we would love to see grow in this area because there is a lot of food going to waste,” she said. “It is a great way to help out lots of charities.”
Along with the commercial kitchen and walk-in fridge and freezer, the space has been completely overhauled during renovations by Barry’s Construction and other local contractors that began in June.
There are new accessible washrooms, new lighting and fixtures, a large dining area and a fresh coat of paint. A children’s area has been created for the youngsters who eat at OSHaRE.
The large kitchen – called the Kiwanis Kitchen after a $100,000 donated from the Kiwanis Club of Owen Sound — features industrial-grade cooking equipment including a double convection oven.
“With churches, community groups and businesses coming onboard to help with packing, renovations, funds and moving, it has been an incredible journey the past seven months and one that could not happen without this amazing community coming together to build a space for community to happen,” she said.
In the future, OSHaRE plans to partner with community organizations and service groups to offer their services at the location to make it a “one-stop shop” for those who need to reach out to other service providers.
Peggy Moulaison, who was operations director at OSHaRE when it first opened back in February 2013, said seeing the new facility was like a dream come true.
“Our time in the Harmony Centre was a great start, but obviously it needed to grow and move to somewhere where they could store food better and process the food more,” said Moulaison. “This is magnificent. The cooking facilities and the storage with the walk-in freezer is like a dream I used to have when I worked there.”
Moulaison also thanked the community for what they have done for the organization.
“We should be so proud of our community and so grateful for those who stepped up,” said Moulaison. “There are a lot of people in need and I don’t think that is going to end anytime soon.”
After Friday’s grand opening and ribbon cutting, a community open house is planned at OSHaRE from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, including tours and hot apple cider.