Overview of the Lobby

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Our lobby serves many different functions in a relatively small amount of space, when you consider how many people circulate through each day. Though most are here to pick up a hamper, some come to help a friend or family member by picking up their hamper, to look through clothing and other household items, to pick up bread and “extra” foods, or to gain some knowledge through the pamphlets and other information resources we have displayed. Whatever the reason is for people coming to our program we’ve definitely got lots to keep them occupied.Having clothing and other household items available is thanks to many generous individuals who drop off donations, and our volunteers like Wouda who sort through these donations. We receive a variety of items that are helpful to our patrons for many reasons, such as when they’re rebuilding their lives after losing a job, or collecting items for their own place after leaving a spouse or parent. The help may come from getting a new outfit or shoes; requesting a set of dishes and cutlery, pots and pans, or bedding; or picking up a book or game for a child. The possibilities are endless because of the variety of ages, family sizes, cultures and situations we encounter each day. So again we want to offer an enormous thank you to our volunteers who have and continue to sort through the many donations bags we receive to keep this corner of the lobby full. It’s definitely no easy job – as it’s a high traffic area – since many patrons regularly visit looking for assistance with a wide variety of these non-food items.

When it comes to offering food in our lobby, we’ve briefly outlined this in a previous post, “A day in the life of a food hamper”. This post demonstrates how patrons have the choice to try “unusual” foods through the information posters and recipe cards we try to include with any bulk items that’s set on the table. When items are placed in the lobby we try to encourage patrons to only take the amount of food that they think they can use in a reasonable amount of time. Some patrons may be familiar with the item and take lots without needing the recipes, but for those who aren’t familiar with the food the recipe cards are helpful. We’ve received many positive comments back from patrons who have tried one of the “unusual” food recipes at home. This feedback helps us believe this process is the best way to distribute “unusual” items, as fairly as possible since everyone is given an equal opportunity for the “extra” item.

Our most common “bulk” item that we offer in the lobby is bread. Bread often doesn’t last long in our lobby since it is such a common food staple. One of the biggest reasons bread is a high demand item is that it helps patrons stretch out items they received in a previous hamper, such as peanut butter or luncheon meat. Also some patrons have limited cooking facilities or skills so sandwiches are a staple meal.

The Region of Waterloo Public Health unit also provides us with condoms which patrons are welcome to help themselves to.  Public Health also provides us with a range of brochures and pamphlets on a variety of health topics ranging from nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, physical activity and wellness, parenting, dental health and more.

Canadian Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)  provides a wealth of information in a huge range of easy to read pamphlets that cover topics for new Canadians, sponsorship information,  child support and custody, family law, income assistance benefit programs, workers rights, and tenant rights.  These are some of the most popular brochures we distribute in our lobby and contain information that is of tremendous assistance to many of the people we help.

Displaying all these informational resources requires the use of our bulletin board (more so for special event posters), a spinning rack, and a two other stands that are spread out near the intake counter. We go through a large volume of pamphlets, in many varieties since patrons experience various situations – so if you have any pamphlets or resources you’d like to distribute then feel free to let me know via a comment on the post or call 519-742-0662. We’re always looking for more information to offer our patrons to help them through their various circumstances.

As you can see from the above descriptions of the many features of our lobby we try to use this space to help people as much as possible. Though it may not be a staff or volunteer directly providing the help, we try to make all items as available as possible for patrons accessing our programs to meet whatever need they may have. We also encourage patrons to ask for whatever it is they may need – just because it’s not in the lobby at that moment doesn’t mean that we don’t have it stored away in the warehouse for a special request or to help someone when they know they’re starting from scratch. Our lobby is a small space that serves many purposes so we can’t always have everything out there.  Working here has really re-enforced the significance of the saying “every little bit helps!”

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