April 7, 2020 A message from Suzanne, a Stop volunteer During the COVID-19 outbreak, dozens of volunteers have chosen to keep serving their community at The Stop. Here’s a perspective from one of them: My name is Suzanne Carlsen, and I’ve been a Friday volunteer in The Stop’s Drop-in since September 2018. I’m self-employed and it can be pretty isolating. I started volunteering because I was looking to expand my sense of community. I feel like I’ve always just known about The Stop since I first moved to Toronto. What really drew me to it was the fact that it had so many amazing activities and programs—it’s full circle! You might visit the Food Bank, and right afterwards, join a food demo to learn about the items in your hamper. There is so much follow-up between staff and community members, and a deep understanding of what is going to be useful for people. On the Friday morning shift, we all come from very different backgrounds, and we have different stories. But none of that matters. We’ve got an Italian and Spanish speaker volunteer on the team, and they’ll often speak with each other in their own languages. Sometimes they understand each other, and sometimes they don’t! And then, these sort of hybrid words emerged, which of course, no one else could understand. All of a sudden, we’re making our language at The Stop! Now, when I ride my bike from Parkdale to my work in the Junction, I recognize so many people on the street from my time volunteering. We wave to each other, say “Hey! How’s it going?” I’m no longer just passing through the neighbourhood—I’m part of the community. I think that feeling is why a lot of people come to The Stop. I love that despite our differences, we’re all here for the same reason. What brings us all together is food. After COVID-19 broke, I questioned whether I wanted to keep volunteering. But I thought of my friends who have permanent, secure jobs, and how they were so anxious about COVID-19. Then I thought of the people who struggle to buy groceries every week. Where are they? How are they feeling now? Honestly, I can’t even imagine. The least I can do is help facilitate a meal for them a few hours a week. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to go to the grocery store many times a week if I want, and to be able to buy whatever I want. Imagine if that wasn’t your situation, and you had to consider where every penny was going. So many people don’t have the luxury to choose what they eat. Food insecurity is a constant for many people, when so many other things in their lives aren’t constant at all. The Stop brings them a sense of security, of stability. Once they have a hamper from us, then they have the time and mental energy to do other things, like go to the doctor. It’s reducing a major source of stress for them. Because of COVID-19, I have to take care of myself when I’m outside. But here at The Stop, everyone is so conscious of safety. I really appreciate that. And I’m grateful that some things still feel the same. It’s important that people know that if something is wrong, they can always speak to anyone here. If The Stop can’t help, then they’ll find someone else who can. Knowing that you have support like this is pretty vital for people’s well-being. I can see how much this means to people, to have someone check in on them. This feels important to me in the grand scheme of things—that we can still connect with one another, despite everything going on around us. I keep volunteering here because The Stop provides opportunities for people to feel safe, and to feel good about what they’re eating. You can talk about it in a fancy way, but at the end of the day, people need to eat! —Suzanne The Stop is grateful for all of our volunteers past and present. At this time, we are strictly limiting the amount of people in our spaces, and as such, we are not accepting new applications for volunteers.