The MADA Community Centre, Montreal’s only kosher food bank and soup kitchen, is appealing for more volunteers to enable it to meet the increase in demand for its services.
The centre on Décarie Boulevard is closed to everyone except staff and volunteers, said assistant director Shalom Cohen on March 18.
But its cafeteria is continuing to serve three meals a day, seven days a week, to those in need. Clients are not allowed to come inside. Instead, the meals are takeout in individually wrapped containers, distributed from the parking lot at the Trans Island Avenue entrance.
With breakfast being served between 9-10 a.m., lunch 1-2 p.m. and dinner 6-7 p.m.
Groceries from the food bank are being handed out pre-packaged as well.
Cohen stresses that all those handling goods, from preparation to packing to delivery, are wearing masks changed on a regular basis and following strict sanitation procedures in consultation with health officials.
MADA has cancelled its communal Passover seders, which have been held at a dozen locations on both nights for many years.
Instead, this Chabad-affiliated charity hopes to deliver boxes containing all the essentials for a seder to at least 2,000 households, Cohen said.
This is in addition to holiday food baskets that will be picked up in an outdoor tent at the centre. Clients will be obliged to use hand sanitizer before dealing with any staff member or volunteer.
Also uninterrupted is the delivery of 700 Shabbat meals to shut-ins every Thursday, he said.
Volunteers are leaving boxes by the door and not entering homes.
To accomplish all this, MADA is appealing for those who can spare a couple of hours to volunteer at the centre. “We are minimizing the risk by working in small groups and spreading people out as much as possible,” he said.
MADA, which at the best of times relies heavily on volunteers, has seen a drop off because many people are at home with children out of school or they are older.
Seniors and children will not be accepted as volunteers for now.
Any volunteer, employee or client with cold-like symptoms, or who has been in proximity with a person with COVID-19, or who has been out of Quebec for the last 14 days are asked to refrain from coming to MADA.
So far, donations, of either food or money, have not dropped noticeably, but MADA’s expenses have risen as a result of the crisis, Cohen said, mainly because more people are seeking help due to having to isolate themselves and the extra sanitations measures put into place.
“It’s an overwhelming task and we need as many people as possible to help us. Our meal deliveries could go daily if social isolation increases,” he said.
MADA’s clothing and furniture depots are closed, and the public is asked not to drop off anything at these sites, which are not near the main centre.
Elsewhere, other community groups are making efforts to keep in touch with those most affected by the crisis.
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim has reached out to every member family with someone over the age of 70. Rabbi Adam Scheier reports that over 30 people – clergy and volunteers – have called 690 congregation members and that will be followed up for as long as necessary.
“These calls achieve two main objectives: assessing the essential needs of our membership during this difficult time and ensuring that, even though we aren’t praying in our synagogue, we are still a strong and caring community.”
Federation CJA has set up an additional landing page on its website for volunteers to register to help the community’s most vulnerable with shopping, making home deliveries, friendly phone calls to check in on homebound seniors and the like. https://www.federationcja.org/en/covid19-coronavirus-resources/give-help/
Additionally, the federation has a hotline people can call if they need help, 514-734-1411 or they can email [email protected]