New Hope springs in N.D.G.

Michael Eastman cooks up a storm at New Hope seniors centre.
Michael Eastman cooks up a storm at New Hope seniors centre.

Michael Eastman cooks up a storm at New Hope seniors centre.

In a quiet, leafy corner of N.D.G. sits a small church where an organization with an earthly mission carries out its daily work.

Located in the Kensington Presbyterian Church at Godfrey and Kensington, New Hope is a senior citizens’ day centre staffed by people with various health challenges. It serves a dual purpose: offering meaningful work and providing much-needed services for older people who need community.

Gerry Lafferty runs New Hope. He’s been director since 2006 and is well known to the not-for-profit community as the former executive director of
St. Michael’s Mission, a drop-in centre for homeless people downtown.

The list of services offered here is impressive. They include a quiz-time, discussion group, quilting, computer classes, transportation services, friendly phone calls, art and bridge classes, bingo group, grocery shopping, Yoga, and Crazy Crafter. During this interview, a group of some 30 seniors was working out in an adjoining room.

Among its most popular services are the meals cooked on site, delivered hot, frozen, or served up for lunch at the centre. The head chef is Michael Eastman, who began volunteering at the centre some 14 years ago and soon became the centre’s executive chef.

“I started on pots and pans, and as people left, or became sick, I was asked to help the chef, or prepare a dessert or some soups. It was almost like being a sous-chef,” he recalled, during a coffee break.

He’s been in charge of the kitchen for more than three years, but calls it a team effort.

A Verdun native, Eastman became sick and could not work as a shipper or labourer. His four-day a week volunteer work will help him to eventually return to a remunerated position.

“I enjoy serving people, especially elders,” he says. “We have a rotating schedule for the menu, from beef to pork and chicken, different pastas, lasagna, including vegetarian lasagna and veggie burgers.

“We offer cooked and, as much as possible, fresh veggies. For desserts, we bake cakes, pies, crisps, crumbles, Jell-O, and fresh fruit.

“I get a lot of joy doing this work,” he said smiling as he posed for pictures beside a huge container of breaded chicken.

“We have the biggest Meals on Wheels in western Montreal,” notes director Lafferty. “Last year we put out over 14,000 meals in NDG, Montreal West and Côte St. Luc, and another 9,000 meals here at our community lunches.”

Participants are required to buy a $12 yearly membership, which covers transportation to and from the centre. A three-course meal is $5.

Hot lunches are served Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and/or delivered to homes by volunteers. CLSC René Cassin and Cavendish recommend the service to their clients.

“For a lot of seniors, the meal is secondary; it’s the visit that counts. Many are very isolated and our delivery person may be the only person they see in a day,” Lafferty notes. “If they bring a frozen meal, they will also change a light bulb, or repack their freezer. For continuity, we try to keep the same delivery people on the same routes.”

Eastman oversees the production and prepares a list totaling $70,000 in annual purchasing. Lafferty orders from Commerce Solidaire.

New Hope’s yearly budget is about $350,000, which includes salaries for four staff. About $150,000 of the budget comes from a subsidy program under the regional health and social services agency that supports community organizations. The remainder comes from various fundraising events, including a shop on site selling used clothing and books.

Bakers, drivers, kitchen, and dining helpers are welcome to join 90 volunteers and more than 40 part-timers, who make New Hope a reality. 514-484-0425,

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