Volunteers at Kensington Market pitch in to serve Christmas meals

The chef at the Corner Drop-in pauses to take a breath.

Mike C., who declines to give his full name, has been part of a small crew of staff and volunteers who haven’t stopped moving for the last six hours on Christmas morning.

They’ve been busy cooking, plating, ladling and serving more than 70 home-cooked meals to those in need at the Kensington Market centre that offers food and emergency support to the homeless.

A plate lands with a delicate clink. Mike moves his eyes from item to item, finally giving the nod for “all good” and calling out to a volunteer in a Santa hat.

Many of the city’s shelters and community centres have offered holiday meals to the homeless — and those in need — over the last few days.

But the Corner Drop-in, part of the Neighbourhood Group at 260 Augusta Ave., just south of College Street, is one of the few places that have stayed open over the holiday itself.

“It’s a lonely day for many people,” said Jules Montgomery, co-ordinator of drop-in services, in a sparkly antler headband and Christmas socks. “We wanted to make sure we were open.”

Staff at the Neighbourhood Group have tried to be as accommodating as possible, CEO Bill Sinclair said, especially since the pandemic.

While many other shelters and programs have had to close, he said, the Neighbourhood Group was lucky to have staff willing to work, and volunteers who are eager to help out where needed.

Donations supplied the 50 pounds of potatoes and 12 turkeys that went into the meal.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to pull through,” he said.

This year, especially, the community has needed it.

Over the last two weeks, the centre’s overdose prevention site clinic has saved 12 people from dying, Sinclair told the Star. And, last week, centre staff worked with the city to make sure those living in a encampment nearby did not lose their makeshift homes on one of the coldest days of the year.

Cassandra Novo, 24, said she’s grateful for the meal — and that the centre is open, especially on Christmas, when she had been feeling particularly vulnerable.

“Before I came here,” she said, “I was broken.”

Roberta said she, too, was grateful for the centre and the meal.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said.

Michele Henry is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star, writing health and education stories. Follow her on Twitter: @michelehenry


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