While many worry about plugging in their cars or an increased power bill, one North Central community centre is helping out those most affected by the recent cold. With temperatures consistently below -25 C, the White Pony Lodge has opened its doors and kitchen to hungry and cold North Central residents.
Curtis Weenie, an attendee of Friday’s event with his daughters, agrees that providing free meals and donated clothing to the community is important to the North Central area.
“To see people that are leading here, to give something to the community, it’s needed here,” said Weenie, as he warmed up with a cup of coffee.
“In some way, it’s going to have an effect on everybody living in the city. We’ve got to put in the effort to give hope to a lot of areas.”
The initiative was initially meant to occur once a month, but the recent cold snap enveloping Regina, along with one charitable donation from a local bakery that moved the White Pony Lodge to host the event more regularly.
“COBS Bread gives us a bread donation,” said Leah O’Malley, a board member of the White Pony Lodge. “We actually ended up with so much additional bread, that’s why we were like, now we can do this soup and sandwiches night.
“We can sit, we can talk, we can actually meet people in the neighborhood and connect them to what they need.”
Friday’s meal, which featured free hot chocolate, coffee, soup and sandwiches, was sponsored by Spring Free From Racism, a Saskatchewan-based volunteer committee, which partners with the Saskatchewan Association of Human Rights. The White Pony Lodge is located at 2901 5th Ave.
“It’s our first time (sponsoring),” said Lynn McCann, secretary for Spring Free From Racism, “I saw that they (White Pony Lodge) had done this on their Facebook page last week or the week before, and it really hit home … They need something to warm them up.”
McCann said the North Central community is in dire need of such programs, adding that although there are other locations around the city that sponsor similar events, it’s important to have a north-central based program.
“There’s people here who have no way of getting over there, so that’s why it’s important to do it in the neighborhood,” said McCann.
O’Malley said around 30 people have attended each night, but is hoping to build momentum and believes the centre can provide enough for 60-80 people.
The White Pony Lodge also has a weekend program which sees volunteers patrol the North Central neighborhood to clean up used needles and other drug paraphernalia. The patrols intend to prevent children from picking up the needles, as well as to prevent second-hand usage and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Patty Will, a long-term volunteer for the organization, said the new program is a welcome addition to North Central Regina.
“The main thing is there’s a lot of people who are homeless in the area,” said Will, “we try to do this once a month, try and get as many people off the streets and fed and warm.”
With such a positive response around the community, the organization is hoping to continue with similar events after winter recedes.
“We wanted for a while to extend this into barbecues and maybe have alley cleanups where people come, we cook food for them, we hang out, do that sort of thing,” said O’Malley.
The White Pony Lodge encourages others to volunteer or donate money, food or clothing items. More information, as well as the scheduled free meal events can be found on the White Pony Lodge’s Facebook page.