Author Archives: The Ottawa Mission

The Mission’s Volunteer Family

There isn’t a single type of volunteer at The Ottawa Mission.

All of them have a story of how they arrived here, and different reasons that keep them coming back.

They have different ages, backgrounds and beliefs, but all of them come into the building with the same goal: they want to do some good for people.

From serving meals, to doing laundry, to supporting transformative programs for clients, the work that is done on Waller Street is only possible through the passion and generosity of our volunteers.

“They’re the cavalry coming over the hill,” said Jake Harding, The Mission’s Coordinator of Volunteer and Community Engagement Services.

“From a strictly operational point-of-view, without volunteers to help us, we could not do what we do,” he said.

That’s been especially true during COVID-19.

The impacts of the pandemic have been felt everywhere at The Mission, most notably in the huge growth in food insecurity across Ottawa and the need for food programs like the Mobile Mission Meals food truck.

Finding the helping hands to meet that growing need, in the middle of the pandemic, was the challenge that fell on the volunteer office.

Before COVID-19, the average volunteer would come in 9 hours per month, but now, that number is up to 14 hours per month.

But with many volunteers who are elderly or immune-compromised needing to stay home for safety, experienced volunteers and new ones alike have stepped up to take on more shifts to help meet the growing need for food in our community.

For some volunteers, having to staying away has been hard.

Normand Bradley started volunteering with The Mission 4 years ago, and over 2,000 hours of volunteering later, keeps coming back every week.

But last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Norman wasn’t able to leave the building he lives in for nine weeks, which prevented him from volunteering.

“It was terrible,” he said. “You become so close to the staff and other volunteers, it’s as hard as not seeing your family.”

However, the day he was allowed to leave again, he remembers the feeling of picking up the phone to call Jake and schedule a shift.

“It felt like I had won the lottery,” he said.

“If not now, then when?”

Svjetlana Gavric walked by The Mission every day on her way to work, seeing the growing demand for its services firsthand. She started volunteering on her own several years ago, and found herself quickly drawn into the community of care developed by the staff and volunteers.

“You meet so many different people that have crossed so many different paths,” she said. “And you learn something from each of them.”

With many volunteers having to stay away due to the pandemic, it’s been hard on the community.

“I’ve made real friendships here, the kind where you call to check in on one another,” she said. “Speaking with them, you can tell it causes them hurt that they aren’t able to come in.”

For Svjetlana, that’s one of the reasons it was still important for her to continue to serve, despite the risk.

“If not now, then when?” she said. “As long as there are people in need, we’ll be there. We have to come together as a community, now more than ever.”

“Help is like a two-way street here.”

Beyond the friendships that are built, for many volunteers, helping serve people experiencing poverty in our community has changed their perspectives on homelessness.

Cezar Iliescu is a law student at the University of Ottawa, just a few blocks away from The Mission.

“On campus, I feel many students know there’s a shelter over there, but not the exact details of what happens here,” he said.

It was while taking a social justice course that Cezar came to start volunteering at The Mission, and discovered the breadth of services offered here.

Eventually Cezar got other students involved through a student group he founded, including running a fundraiser and volunteering as a group.

“Before I introduced them, they all had their own biases and preconceptions about why people are homeless,” he said. “By volunteering here, they really learned how poverty affects people, and how homelessness can happen to anyone.”

Those fellow students he introduced have continued to volunteer on their own now, something Cezar attributes to the volunteer community and culture of The Mission.

“Help is like a two-way street here,” he says. “I’ve always been told here, if I ever run into food problems, or anything like that, we’re all here to help you.”

Working with others

As COVID-19 continues to present new challenges, the work continues in the volunteer office to help meet the need.

For Jake, he says the mental health challenge COVID-19 has presented to them has been twofold.

“For staff on the frontlines, it’s been isolating to not have the regular community of volunteers with us,” he said. “And for the volunteers not able to come in, they find it difficult to be away.”

“The community aspect is what we’re all missing,” he said.

But even through the trials of the pandemic, that community isn’t gone.

It’s kept alive through those that continue to serve, and by those looking forward to returning one day soon.

Helping Those in Need this Easter: The Ottawa Mission Serves 4,653 Meals in our Community

Ottawa, ON – During the Ottawa Mission’s special Easter meal service, which was held on April 5 for shelter guests in our dining room and community members through our garage entrance, as well as the week prior through our Mobile Mission Meals food truck program, the shelter served 4,653 meals to those in need.

Shelter guests and community members enjoyed a full roast beef dinner on April 5, while Mobile Mission Meals clients took home a delicious turkey dinner. In addition to warm and nutritious food, the special holiday meal provides a sense of community to those who may find themselves alone.

In 2019 – 2020, the shelter served more than 520,000 meals. Due to the impact of Covid19, the Mission estimates that it will serve 700,000 – 800,000 meals in 2020 – 2021.

“Ottawa was already in a homelessness emergency and an opioid-use epidemic when Covid19 came upon us. Given the overwhelming impact on our collective mental health, finances, food insecurity, and risk of homelessness, we anticipate remaining the first place of refuge for even more vulnerable people after Covid19 has passed,” noted Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley.

“Our dedicated volunteers and also our exceptional kitchen staff worked very hard to ensure that everyone had a delicious Easter. And special thanks to our donors and supporters who have been profoundly generous in their continuing support of the Mission in these continuing difficult times. A huge thank you to all,” Tilley concluded.

About The Ottawa Mission

Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving the homeless, the hungry and the lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2019-2020, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 197 men every night and served an average of 1,422 meals every day.  The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of a new housing department.



Aileen Leo

Director of Communications

T 613.234.1144 x 305

C 613.712.3092

Helping Those in Need During COVID19: The Ottawa Mission Will Feed Even More People Who Are Hungry This Easter

Ottawa, ON – As Easter approaches, we want to assure our community that, in these continuing difficult times, The Ottawa Mission will be serving an in-house Easter meal to our residents, and also a special take-out Easter meal for community members.

The current pandemic has made food insecurity in Ottawa much worse, and the shelter expects to feed well over 4,000 people this Monday and during the week leading up to April 5 through our food truck program Mobile Mission Meals.

WHEN: Monday, April 5, from 11:00 am until 12:00 noon for the shelter residents, and also a special take-out meal for community members from 11:00pm until 3:00pm.

WHO:  The following individuals will be available for media interviews on behalf of the Ottawa Mission:

  • Chief Executive Officer Peter Tilley
  • Director of Food Services Chef Ric Allen-Watson

WHERE: Media are requested to gather at the entrance to the shelter at the corner of Waller and Besserer Streets just before the beginning of the community take-out meal service at 10:45 am for media availability with Mr. Tilley and Chef Ric.

Please note that due to current strict infection controls to minimize the risk posed by Covid19, in order to protect our clients, media will not be allowed to enter the Ottawa Mission to film. Further, in order to protect client confidentiality during the community take-out meal service, filming and photography will be limited to shooting from the back of the meal line and of individual servers providing meals as the meal progresses.

About The Ottawa Mission

Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving the homeless, the hungry and the lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2019-2020, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 197 men every night and served an average of 1,422 meals every day.  The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of a new housing department.


Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
T 613.234.1144 x 305
C: 613.712.3092

Power of Attorney. What Is It?

When people seek help with their estate planning, they usually understand the need for an up-to-date will. Some, however, are less clear on the need to have a Power of Attorney. Having such documents is important and wise. Here’s why.

A Power of Attorney is a legal, written document that allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf. Essentially, it gives them the same powers you have to deal with your assets and your personal care. A Power of Attorney is only valid after it is signed and only for as long as you live.

There are two kinds of Power of Attorney:

  • Power of Attorney for Property covers your financial affairs and allows the person you name to act for you. A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a type of Power of Attorney for Property that allows the person you name to act even after you become mentally incapable.
  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care covers your personal care decisions, such as housing, nutrition, clothing, and health care, should you be unable to act on your own.

If you don’t have a Power of Attorney, a family member can make health care treatment decisions for you and can apply to the Court become your guardian of the person and of property. Alternatively, someone else, like a close friend, could apply to act for you. With a Power of Attorney, you get to choose whom you would like to act on your behalf.

Powers of Attorney are powerful documents and should be given to individuals only after carefully considering that they are trustworthy and able to do what is required. It is wise to ensure the people who need to know about these documents are aware of them and where they are located. They should also be kept in a secure place.

Powers of Attorney are practical documents that can make your life, and the lives of your family members, much easier. When you create or update your will, remember your Powers of Attorney, too.

Tax benefits for you and your estate

Every legacy gift through one’s will to The Ottawa Mission Foundation provides your estate with a tax receipt for the full amount of the gift. In the year of your death, you are deemed to have disposed of all of your assets. Because of this, your reportable income can be high. The charitable tax credit flowing from your gift can offset any tax owing from capital gains or the winding up of retirement funds. Your executor should consult an accountant about how to make use of the tax credit in the most beneficial way.

Susanne Greisbach is a Senior Advisor in Trust and Advisory Services with the National Bank and a specialist in Wills, Trusts, and Estate Law. Susanne is a member of The Ottawa Mission Foundation’s Allied Professionals Network. This group of volunteers from various professions – law, accounting, financial planning – bring their professional knowledge and technical expertise to The Foundation’s legacy giving program. To learn more about Susanne and our other allied professionals, please visit our Legacy Giving page

How You Can Help Shape Our Future

A charitable gift in your will is important. Each year, thousands of philanthropic Canadians leave a portion of their assets in their wills to support causes they care about. Such gifts help people fulfil their charitable dreams and wishes. They can also generate significant tax benefits for one’s estate. For The Ottawa Mission Foundation, charitable gifts from generous donors like you ensure that those experiencing homelessness will continue to have a warm place to sleep, nutritious meals, housing support, medical, dental and addiction treatment programs, and so much more. That’s why we are asking you to remember The Mission with your own legacy gift.

You may direct your future gift to any area of The Mission’s work that you like, including our many supportive programs, our endowment funds or for our day-to-day operations. Alternatively, you may allow us to direct your gift to where the need and impact are greatest at the time. Whatever you choose, a planned gift can ensure a strong future for The Mission. Opportunities abound and there is one that is just right for you.

A charitable gift of any amount in your will could be a truly powerful gift that may not be financially possible during your lifetime. After providing for your loved ones, a gift in your will would make a tangible, meaningful difference to what we strive to do daily at The Mission.

If you are considering leaving a legacy for The Mission, speak with your professional advisors. Then, please contact Christina Hunter Cadieux, Planned Giving Officer, by email at or calling her at 613.277.4902. If you have already remembered The Mission in your estate plans, please let us know. We can partner with you to establish or confirm how you would like your future gift to be used, thank you personally, and offer you recognition if you wish.

Please help us build a lasting future. Thank you for remembering The Mission with a legacy gift.

Without A Will…

There are many reasons why we put off making a will. The process can be daunting. There is uncertainty about where to begin. Some think their estate is too small to bother. However, if we really understood the consequences of not having a will, especially for those we care about, we would be taking action—immediately.

Here are just some of the reasons why having a will is so important:

  • When you don’t have a will, the chances of having to apply to court for probate are much higher. When you have a will, combined with some good estate planning, you can often avoid this costly and time consuming process.
  • Without a will, the laws of the province in which you reside will determine how your assets are distributed on your passing. Your preferences may not be followed and could result in real hardship for your loved ones.
  • If you are parents of minor children, you lose your only opportunity to name a legal guardian of your choice—someone who could best meet the emotional and material needs of your children.
  • Finally, if minors are beneficiaries, they will inherit from your estate at the age of 18 with no strings attached. Some can handle such responsibility at this young age, while others cannot.

Having an up-to-date will is important. Think about the legacy that you would like to leave, and then seek professional advice and counsel. You—and your heirs— will be glad you did.

Without a Will is based on an article written by Peter Lillico, an estate planning lawyer with the Peterborough, Ontario firm of Lillico Bazuk Galloway Halka.

Lucian and Rita Blair: Seeing The Need

Lucian and Rita Blair have donated to The Ottawa Mission Foundation for 18 years — even though they both wish The Mission wasn’t needed. Unfortunately, it is.

It was Lucian’s work in local television that first brought The Mission and its work to his attention. He had no idea the difficulties the homeless faced, or their special needs, until he produced a news program on homelessness. Rita’s work as a social worker at the Ottawa Civic Hospital brought The Mission’s work to light as well. They discovered the impressive, comprehensive strategies it uses with the homeless and, as Lucian shares, “We were happy to offer our financial support.” They do so in memory of their son Paul, who died in 2011.

The Blairs were born in northeastern Italy in an area that is now part of Slovenia. Their parents met in an internment camp, decided that their future lay in Canada, and immigrated in 1951. Rita’s family moved to Montreal, while Lucian’s family relocated to Toronto. Lucian and Rita connected again during Expo 67, began a friendship, and have now been married for close to 50 years.

The couple is clearly aware of what a good life they have in comparison to others. As Lucian shares, “Our gifts support The Mission’s meal and rehabilitation programs and that pleases us.”

They became monthly donors and more recently each has chosen to remember The Mission with another kind of gift — a legacy in their will. It was something they just knew they wanted to do. “We have no grandchildren”, says Rita, “and we have absolute confidence The Mission will use our gifts creatively and well.” Their future gifts are a percentage of their estates and have been left undesignated to be used where the need is greatest at the time.

Today, the Blairs are happily retired. Lucian spends time with his piano, making playlists for his friends, reading, and home maintenance. Rita is an avid bird watcher and enjoys gardening. They keep abreast of The Mission’s activities and are happy to encourage their neighbours and friends to support the Mission as well. The Mission could not be more grateful for all their years of thoughtful help.

When asked what he would say to someone who is considering leaving a legacy gift to The Mission, Lucian is clear. “Just do it! The Mission does wonderful work that meets urgent needs. It is an organization most worthy of our help.”

You too can support The Mission with a gift of any amount in your estate plans. Staff would be pleased to assist you in any way they can. And if you have already remembered The Mission with a legacy, would you let us know? We would like to thank you personally and ensure we use your future gift exactly as you wish.

On behalf of those we serve thank you, Lucian and Rita, for your generous support of The Mission in so many ways for so many years.

Working with our partners to meet the need for healthy food and a brighter future

As the pandemic has impacted our community, The Ottawa Mission has partnered with community food cupboards across our city to meet the need for healthy food in response to worsening food insecurity. Our food truck project was launched at the beginning of September 2020 and the need for its services has grown since that time. We started the program to bring meals to people where they live to serve even more people in need.
The program began with five stops delivering about 100 meals at each stop. The food truck now has 18 locations rotating throughout Ottawa each week and delivers over 2,800 meals per week.

Last year, The Ottawa Mission served over 1,400 meals every day and a total of over 520,000 meals. The addition of the food truck has pushed this daily average number of meals served to more than 2,000, and will push our yearly total meal count to well over 600,000.

We’re incredibly grateful to our partners, donors and sponsors for their generous support. We couldn’t do this without your help.

Our supporters have also been instrumental in expanding our very successful Food Services Training Program. Since 2004, the FSTP has trained 179 students to work in this industry and has a success rate of 90% in terms of students securing positions.

The program has expanded to include more training opportunities such as catering and job placements. Over time, the FSTP has outgrown kitchen and our ability to keep up with the number of people that want to take part in the program. As a result, we’ve had to turn potential trainees away because we don’t have the resources or space to train them.

To address these issues and help even more people in need, we’re moving forward to increase the annual number of students trained at our new non-profit, offsite FSTP education centre located within the former Rideau Bakery site. We’ll increase the number of sessions per year from two to three to train more students per year. We will also add a store-front operation to serve healthy, nutritious meals at an affordable price for people that normally couldn’t afford it.

We’re profoundly grateful to have the generous support of many existing and new partners to realize this exciting new initiative, including the Aggarwal family, current owners of the former Rideau Bakery site, who have donated it for our use for seven years.

The Rideau Bakery provided delicious food and a sense of community and family to the people of Ottawa for almost 90 years before closing its doors in 2019. We’re very proud to be able to continue this tradition while helping those in need to rebuild their lives.

A huge thank you to our supporters for your incredible generosity in providing both healthy food and brighter future for those we serve.

Cooking Up a New Future for Amir

Amir is a bright, enthusiastic 17-year old who graduated from The Mission’s Food Services Training program (FSTP) on November 12. He holds the record as the youngest student ever in the program.

Amir came to Canada from Iran three years ago with his parents and sister. He’s a student at Glebe Collegiate where he is completing his high school education. ESL classes are helping him get good grades and he is looking forward to graduation.

You can hear the excitement in Amir’s voice when he talks about what the FSTP means to him. “It is for me a great pleasure to work with the great Chef Ric,” Amir says with a smile. He’s a hard worker. Amir completed his high school requirements over the summer, and enrolled in a high school placement program as an FSTP student, which prepared him for work in a commercial kitchen. Since 2004, the FSTP, the program has maintained a 90% success rate for students finding jobs in the industry, even during the pandemic.

“When I came here, it was in COVID and I couldn’t meet with my friends,” Amir says, “but when I came I met so many amazing people. And I’ve learned a lot of skills.”

Amir secured a part-time position at Skuish Cookies, which makes delicious treats. Covid19 resulted in him being laid off, however, when that is no longer a factor, he will happily go back.
Amir is very grateful for all the support he is receiving. “I’m not only working to learn, but I love to help people who come to The Mission for help.”

Thanks to you, Amir has cooked up a new future with newfound confidence.

A Place to Call Home at Last for Raymond

Raymond was a gentle and friendly 63-year-old man from a small farming community in Manitoba where he lived until he was almost 30. “We took care of the land, the garden and the chickens,” he remembered fondly.

When he was seven, his mother moved in with his new stepfather, a decision he called a “mistake”. His stepfather had a problem with alcohol, and his mother, who didn’t drink, began to drink too. Alcohol fueled fighting between the two of them, and also the beatings from his stepfather. “The days weren’t all bad,” he said ruefully. Raymond also incurred polio as a child, but fortunately recovered.

From a Cree background, Raymond’s mother ensured that he didn’t go to residential school but instead a regular day school. But that still didn’t protect Raymond against discrimination and abuse because of who he was.

After he left the farm, Raymond had a succession of jobs, including on a beef farm in Dauphin, sanding fiberglass rooves for buses in Winnipeg, and other jobs across the country. “I hitchhiked back in the days when it was safe to do,” he recalled with a smile.

Sadly, as he moved across Canada in search of new jobs, new homes and a new life, his own problem with alcohol ebbed and flowed. This affected not only his ability to keep a job, but also his relationships with his five sons, who live in different parts of Canada. “I don’t have a connection with them except my youngest,” he noted quietly with downcast eyes.

As Raymond grew older he developed heart problems as well as anxiety and panic attacks. After he came to Ottawa, he moved into the Oakes, a supportive treatment facility run by the Shepherds of Good Hope which has both a Managed Alcohol Program and an aging-at-home program. As his health declined further, he became unable to look after himself and moved into our Hospice, the oldest and largest within a homeless shelter in North America, in August 2020.

Hardship and tragedy continued to follow Raymond more recently: both his sisters passed away and his granddaughter perished in a fire. He found solace in his continued contact with his youngest son as well as his brother, who lives in Edmonton.

Raymond also found comfort and caring in the relationships he developed with Hospice staff. “It’s so quiet and peaceful here. There’s no pressure.” He has his own room and is provided 24-hour support. “The staff here are so accepting, likeable and helpful. Kevin helps me with my shower, and Pat runs errands for me to the corner store. I really appreciate it.”

Sadly, Raymond passed away on December 30. Through your kindness and caring, you gave Raymond the home he needed and deserved. Thank you so much for your support and compassion.