OTTAWA -- When a sign reading “Urgent Need” went up a few days ago by Peter and Leslie Kathman at the end of their quiet Gloucester street, the expectations were nothing like the response it received.

“I thought we’d get one or two cans, and they were just bringing bags and bags,” says Peter Kathman.

The couple says they heard of a desperate need for food for hundreds of people from their daughter who’s a teacher. Many of those in needs are young children, and new Canadians living in a hotel and going hungry.

“When she called and said ‘mom they have no food what’s happening? What can we do?’ It pretty much pulls at your heart strings,” explains Leslie Kathman. “This is all unfamiliar territory for us.”

But soon, the response proved to be overwhelming, and as we’ve seen in many cases during the pandemic, the city comes through in a time of need.

The Kathman’s reached out to the Caldwell Family Centre, off Merivale Rd. to distribute the donations, and that’s when they realized the magnitude of the need.

Centre Executive Director Marilyn Matheson says about 500 people have been living at the hotel, 200 of them children under the age of 12.

“Some of the families have been there 18 months or more, which can be a hardship,” explains Matheson. “They have a small microwave and a small fridge to keep fresh food, that’s why we need an ongoing flow of the fresh food because they don’t have the facilities to keep it...Being a new Canadian and not speaking the language, either French or English, it’s got to be even scarier.”

Last week alone, 75 boxes went out to those living at the hotel, a mix of refugees, immigrants, and those who have recently lost their homes.

“It’s best if people donate financially, because that gives us the freedom to buy what is needed, what we’re short of. Then we can tell what food we’re out of, and work with our partners.”

The Kathman’s say it’s important to do what you can, especially during a time like this.

“It shows your community for what it is. And we’re very happy to count these people as neighbours and Ottawa citizens.”