In February 2021, Tiny Home Takeout began serving free hot meals from the tiny home outside St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Kitchener. At the time, they were giving out around 100 meals a night. Today, thanks to word of mouth, that number has grown to up to 600 meals an evening.
The meals are free; donations are accepted but not expected. Any contributions the group of volunteers receive directly benefit the program.
"And with that growth, there was a need to augment funding, but there's also just been so much public support for it as well," said Tony D'Amato Stortz, outreach coordinator for Saint Mary's Parish.
D'Amato Stortz said the idea for the annual fundraising event (Hunger No More) came from their chef, Amy Cyr.
"[She] saw the need and also saw the support and decided to bring it together, into this one big event that worked with our core mission," he said.
Hunger No More will take place downtown Kitchener on September 12 as a food festival fundraiser - to support Tiny Home Takeout.
"There's going to be over 20 restaurants, music, auction items, and just like Tiny Home Takeout, the entry and food is free for anyone," D'Amato Stortz told Kitchener Today.
The event is "pay what you can if you can, and all donations go directly to Tiny Home Takeout.
"We're doing tours of the church, a silent auction, food trucks, restaurants are running tables . . . we're even closing Young Street for it," he added.
The Golden Keys, an award-winning Oktoberfest band, is headlining the event. In addition, Eric Traplin will be providing engaging entertainment for the kids.
Tiny Home Takeout provides free meals Tuesday to Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to whoever attends – no questions asked. Some people will take a meal and return with $20 when they can. Others, said D’Amato Stortz, have paid as much as $300 for a piece of pizza.
When asked what the feedback has been like from the community, the outreach coordinator said he recalls one woman who came by for a warm meal. She had been living on the streets for quite some time.
She looked at the menu and said she didn't have any money. And when he told her it was free, she cried.
"She just looked up at me and said, 'It's been so long since somebody let me choose what I want to eat.’"
For D’Amato Stortz and the team of volunteers, there's dignity in choice and in serving the best food – to everyone and anyone, despite their ability to pay.
"We try to make a safe and welcoming environment. There's upbeat music and young volunteers in uniforms, and there's a customer service mindset. Everyone is treated like a paying customer."
Tiny Home Takeout consists of 121 volunteers, and there's always a need for more. "Making the number of meals that we do on a given day requires a full team effort," said D'Amato Stortz. Currently, the kitchen operates for "about 10 hours a day, five days a week.
"We are going to be there in the winter. . . in the blizzards. . . when it’s raining," he said. Because even in inclement weather, stomachs are still empty.
"So, if you feel like coming out and contributing to the community at the same time, it's going to be such a feel-good event.”
Hunger No More will run on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Donations can be made here. Participating food trucks will be charging a fee for food, but a portion of the funds collected will be donated to St. Mary's Parish. Details regarding participating restaurants and musical performances can be found on their website or Facebook page.