Gathering Place slows Sturgeon Falls outreach for now

The Gathering Place was serving around 700 meals a week in Sturgeon Falls, but as of last week, that service has come to an end. At least for now. Dennis Chippa, the Executive Director of The Gathering Place, noted that ideally, and if funding allows, the food service will return in the late spring of next year.

“We’ve had to scale back a bit,” Chippa explained. “We’ll do that for a couple of months and see where it will go. Probably by the new year, we’ll start everything back up.”

The Gathering Place, at 1181 Cassells Street in North Bay, provides free meals to those in need within the community. Over the past few years, the organization has been doing more outreach in the surrounding areas, as the need is growing throughout the region.

See: Gathering Place Outreach seeing significant increase

In Sturgeon Falls, The Gathering Place has been handing out meals since 2021. However, although these meals are free to clients, everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch. Chippa noted that since the program began in Sturgeon Falls, the cost to run it has been around $100,000. This money comes from fundraising, and whatever they can get from grants.

“When we talk about food insecurity, it’s one thing to say we need to provide more, but where is that money going to come from?”

Hence the scaling back on the Sturgeon Falls service. Also, with winter approaching, more Gathering Place staff are needed to run the warming centre on Fraser Street, which means less resources are available to go to Sturgeon Falls to cook and package those 700 meals.

See: Cold winter coming for Sturgeon Falls’ homeless

“We’re doing over 1,500 meals out the door” on Cassells Street, “and another 500 to 600 meals on our outreach program in and around North Bay,” Chippa said. “So, we’re going to put it on pause so that we don’t all burn out.”

Chippa and crew are also looking for a new location in Sturgeon Falls, with a suitable industrial kitchen for the cause. They were distributing meals through the Alliance Center and the Family Health Centre.

“We have two locations in mind,” Chippa said, one of which “needs minor renovations.”

Chippa explained that “we’re still doing some outreach” in Sturgeon Falls, “we’re not ignoring the outlying areas.” He noted that the Gathering Place is working with paramedics in Sturgeon Falls, providing them with meals they can give out at their discretion. “We’re still doing work with seniors,” and some members of Nipissing First Nation as well.

“So, we’re still doing that,” Chippa emphasized. But the big operation had to cease temporarily “as the demand became so high it became unmanageable” given the money and staff available.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,