Kingston nightclub to be turned into a meals distribution hub for those in need
OTTAWA -- A local business is stepping up to help a non-profit organization distribute food to those who need it during the winter months.
The owner of Stages, a downtown nightclub on Princess Street, has donated the building for free to Lionhearts Inc., a local group that’s been operating a food meal program out area's like McBurney Park since March.
The summer months have been a major success, with many people coming by says Lionhearts’ Travis Blackmore, but with the winter weather approaching, he says they needed to find a suitable indoor option.
He says the building has been closed for months during the pandemic, so the owners offered up their space.
"Can’t say enough what it means to help be able to restore some dignity to people and sometimes just being somewhere warm for a few minutes is a big, big thing," says Blackmore.
On Tuesday, Kingston Council voted unanimously to provide $39,000 in funding to help offset costs like heat and hydro, while the work is being done out of the nightclub.
"Our focus is to feed people, and we know with this pandemic, we’ve got a real tough six months coming with the weather," says Blackmore.
Blackmore says the central, downtown location will allow for proper physical distancing and accessible entry for those that use the meal program.
Lionhearts has seen the need for meals skyrocket. They began distributing ready-made meals at the start of the pandemic, beginning with about 30 meals a day, and steadily increased over the coming months.
"Our highest number in a particular day has been over 1,200 meals in a day, but we usually see that hover around the 780 mark (each day)," he explains.
United Way President Bhavana Varma says meal programs in Kingston are seeing new faces.
"Kingston had a really high tourism sector, and I think with loss of employment, people who were precariously employed are now struggling," Verma tells CTV News Ottawa in an interview.
The plan is for Lionhearts to continue the distribution of their take home meal packages inside the facility for one hour each evening. Following that, there would be a clean-up of the facility and then it would reopen for the evening hours (8-11 p.m.) to provide the same drop-in program that the Street Mission was providing at St. Andrews.
The meal distribution centre out of Stages Nightclub is set to open November 14, and run until April.