May 29, 2017

Lunch by George, a drop-in program

The origins of Lunch By George are mostly forgotten. It was originally founded in the 1980s by a group of St. George’s parishioners led by Rev. Margaret Rogers, who was Curate at the time. It was started in response to the provincial government’s cut backs to residential facilities for the mentally challenged. This was expected to have a major impact in Kingston with the closure of Kingston Psychiatric Hospital, and so a group decided to offer sandwich lunches each weekday at St. George’s Hall to help those suddenly left to look after themselves. About five clients attended each day, but as the number grew, the number of sandwiches needed each day became more than the group could handle.

By 1987, a Luncheon Programme Advisory Committee had been established including Heather Baker, Lucy Brierly, Conn Fraser, Joy Mahoney, Elizabeth Stott, Rebecca Monson, Sue Haines, Shirley and Godfrey Spragge, Janette Sauvageau, Helene Hannah and Winifred Ross. There were many volunteers.  Soup and sandwiches were served on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and casseroles on Monday and Friday. Many of the problems discussed by that committee were ones which we still discuss today!

By April 1988, funding was approved by the Ministry of Community and Social services to hire a Coordinator, and Deborah Brewer was hired in June. In 1990 Jenny Hurd replaced her, and has remained ever since. In 1995 the COMSOC funding was cut by another provincial government, and the Cathedral had to decide what to do: stop the programme, or see if it could fund the Lunch Programme itself. A Task Force was set up, and John Coleman, a retired mathematics professor emeritus at Queen’s, came to the rescue.

John was adamant that the programme would continue, and he spearheaded the creation of Outreach St. George’s Kingston, and made it a registered charity. OSGK came into being in 1997, and that year John raised enough money for the year’s programme, and nearly enough for a second year if all else failed. But failure was not in his vocabulary, and he continued to raise enough funds each year to keep the savings untouched. Today the John Coleman Memorial Contingency Fund continues to be there if needed. Funding comes from major companies such as Scotiabank, Homestead and Empire Life, from granting agencies like the United Way and the Community Foundation for Kingston and Area, and from many individuals who give what they can to help those less fortunate than themselves. We still operate out of St. George’s Hall, though in a much better kitchen thanks to a Trillium Foundation grant.

The Lunch programme was renamed Lunch By George in 2004, and now serves over 850 soups at 10 o’clock each month, and over 1000 hot meals at 11 o’clock – over 12000 meals in 2012. It is open each weekday, for 50 weeks of the year. It remains Kingston’s only downtown free food provider, and tries to carry on the mission thought about 27 years ago.

For more information visit the Lunch By George website at www.osgk.org or email info@stgeorgescathedral.ca                           

Contributed by Peter Gower

June, 2013