Rotary Clubs Team Up To Support Meals Of Hope.  $80k+ Raised For Gore Park Community Outreach Cargo Van

This story begins on February 13, 2021…almost a year into the seemingly never-ending pandemic, by fluke and on his way home after an outreach and stopped at a red light at Hughson and King, Jeffrey Ng noticed tarps flapping in the wind at Gore Park. He stopped to check it out…he was appalled by what he discovered-rows of homeless individuals living in tents in the dead of winter. Jeffrey said, “These people were a small gathering of those who were forgotten during the pandemic.”

Ng spoke to some of the individuals and made sure to learn their names and had conversations about what they needed most. Food and warmth were the 2 things right at the top of the long list. Jeffrey decided right then and there to take action to improve this situation. He and his 5 friends put together a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and a tray of PB&J sandwiches. They spoke to a fellow named George, they spoke to a lady named Wendy, and they spoke to many other struggling individuals too. Jeffrey said, “We wanted to ensure that they were heard and knew they were valued.”

The pandemic was supposed to be over by spring…we know how that turned out. Each and every Saturday, Ng and his team, committed to serve hot food and drinks for the people of Gore Park. Jeffrey said, “Word caught on quickly and the need for support in this community was overwhelming.” Ng recruited volunteers, formed community partnerships and has been running this rapidly growing and evolving program for 3 years now. The program has become the largest Meals of Hope location supported by the Port Nelson United Church and Faith United Church, which is now serving over 1,300 meals per week and providing desperately needed help in 5 critical Burlington and Hamilton venues.

At this moment in time, every Saturday, the Meals of Hope at Gore Park is serving 850+ each week. The food is hot, the vegetables are fresh, and you can get fresh coffee and a haircut too. Jeffrey’s team of volunteers has grown to 140+. To operate the Saturday outreach program from 9:30-3:30 requires on average 60 volunteers. The outreach component aims to educate and assist and create hope among those that are struggling. The demands to support this program are ongoing. There are partnerships to nurture, food to pick up and take to storage, supplies to purchase, funds to raise and much more.

“The Gore Park Community Outreach has become like an outdoor food court-where everything is free. We show those in need, empathy, hope and compassion. These individuals are neglected and they need support. We believe that our efforts are making a tremendous difference to the hope people’s lives.” Jeffrey Ng

Jeffrey has been building relationships and making presentations to Rotary Clubs non-stop. At the beginning of this Rotary year, which commenced July 1st, 2023; Bruce Hillyer, President of the Rotary Club Burlington Central, initiated a critical meeting with all of the Presidents of the 4 Rotary Clubs of Burlington to start a campaign to fund a desperately needed Ford Transit Commercial Cargo Van for the Gore Park Community Outreach Program and Jeffrey’s team. Everyone was on board 100%, but a great deal of work had to be done to see this initiative come to fruition. Huge efforts were made by everyone involved to educate Rotary members, obtain board approvals and generate much needed additional community support.

After 9 months of consistent meetings, overcoming hurdles, countless emails and phone conversations, strategizing and assessing various methods of financing the van; along came a huge stroke of luck with the availability of a brand new discounted van that was ordered 2 years ago at Eastgate Ford and subsequently cancelled by the company that ordered it. The full funding of the purchase was made possible by 5 Rotary Clubs (Burlington Central, Burlington North, Burlington, Burlington Lakeshore and Hamilton AM), Port Nelson United Church and 3 business sponsors, Clinton Howell Team - RE/MAX Escarpment Realty, Eastgate Ford and National Power Sports Financing.

Although is unfortunate that programs like this are needed, it is wonderful to see the tremendous humanitarian support from Rotary clubs, the community at large and local businesses who care about the wellbeing of those in need. The ribbon cutting ceremony launching the official delivery of the new Gore Park Community Outreach van took place at Gore Park on May 14th, 2024. Congratulations to Jeffrey and his team, keep up the life changing work!