The cafeteria at the Christian Resource Centre (CRC) is filled with chatter, laughter and smiles on Sunday afternoons.
A free brunch is served by the Muslim Welfare Centre (MWC), for anyone who would like to drop by for a hot meal and a chance to interact with volunteers who care about their community.
Every Sunday, two of the four Regent Park Neighbourhood Resource Officers from 51 Division join the MWC to help clean tables and serve meals. But, on a recent Sunday, about 40 TPS members came together to help out, from senior officers to YIPI students to auxiliaries and constables.
According to Firaaz Azeez, Manager of Special Projects for the MWC, the Sunday Brunch is a special one for many community members.
“You will notice the difference when you come in on Sundays,” said Azeez. “You will see families, older and younger people and children… if you come on Mondays to Fridays, you will see primarily men.”
The reason for it, thinks Azeez, is because on Sundays the volunteers bring a welcoming and warm atmosphere, along with other services families can take advantage of, such as clothing and toy distribution and free tax services and medical advice from doctors. “You see old and new, young an old, all colours, cultures and languages – this really is a (representation) of Regent Park.”
Jimmy Sturman, who lives at the CRC, agrees with Azeez.
“This is a really great day out of all the days in the week. They just present themselves as very professional, the way they smile and present the order of the day. I think everybody who leaves here on Sunday leaves with a smile and some hope,” said Sturman.
“We have our community and we have people within the community helping each other and it’s really amazing to see. I never thought two different backgrounds could come together and do such a phenomenal job,” he added.
“And it’s great to see the officers here,” added his fiancé Claudette LaFramboise, who also lives at the Centre. “It’s an amazing atmosphere and I like the fact that it is multicultural.”
Neighbourhood Resource Officer Constable Ed Parks is happy to be involved.
“This has been an amazing program. Not only does it benefit the community by providing them with a meal, but it helps the officers by putting us in contact with people who are in need,” said Parks, one of the four Neighbourhood Resource Officers. “And people see that officers are part of the community, too, so many times we are seen as law-enforcers, but providing meals to people, that breaks a lot of stereotypes.
“I remember one man said me ‘I’m so used to seeing you guys drive by in police cars but this is the first time I’ve had such a pleasant interaction,’ and we have seen him every Sunday since then and it’s great he gets to have a meal, get services and meet the officers,” said Parks.
The MWC serves 350 meals on Sunday, as well as take-away orders for people who don’t want to sit and eat. They also operate in other downtown locations on Saturdays, serving the shelter population and those with food insecurities by handing out about 350 meals.
The Sunday meal program is more of a restaurant-style meal and they require volunteers every Sunday, which is why 51 Division opted to help out with an entire TPS team, explained Superintendent Elizabeth Byrnes, who was helping seat people.
“The people who run this program know the neighbourhood officers because they come down every week to clean tables and help serve,” said Byrnes.