Richmond’s “Team Friday” serves up 4,000th free lunch

As he waited patiently in line in the Richmond park, Terry didn’t realize he was a very special number.

And after Dave had graced his paper plate with a steaming hot, king-sized serving of vegetarian, lazy cabbage roll, it was announced, Terry’s lunch was the 4,000th of its kind.

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To mark the occasion, a smiling Terry was given a bag of chocolate coins to finish off his free, weekly hot meal.

It was all courtesy of a special group who, every Friday for more than two years, have been giving up their time to make, pack and serve a hot lunch to Richmond’s homeless, marginalized and at-risk population.

Individually, they are known as formerly homeless, retired or community workers.

Collectively, they are referred to as “Team Friday,” a merry band of volunteers from St. Alban’s church’s outreach program.

Richmond’s “Team Friday” serves up 4,000th free lunch_1
Terry (right) receives his chocolate gold coins for being the 4,000th recipient of Team Friday's free hot lunch in the park program. Alan Campbell photo

“We’ve been doing this for about two years, ever since the drop-in centre closed at St. Alban’s. We’ve not missed one Friday,” said Dianne Woodhouse, who co-ordinates the efforts through the outreach program.

“That’s when the church volunteers said, ‘we can’t give this up.’ That’s when we stepped in.

“Team Friday is an amazing group. Some are from different churches, some are former homeless people now giving back.”

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Some of Team Friday serving up lunch in the park. Alan Campbell photo

Woodhouse said fundraising and donations pay for the lunches, made from scratch by a volunteer chef, who cooks it up at the church kitchen and at her house.

“We have 15 volunteers in Team Friday and we need all of them contributing for it to work,” added Woodhouse.

“It starts every Friday morning and, at 11:30 a.m., we set off from the church with a coffee run to the location.

“The coffee time is a good time to chat to the people who come along for lunch. A time to find out how they are and if we can help. We then serve lunch at noon. We see around 30-35 (people) every week.”

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Terry receives the 4,000th free hot lunch in the park from Team Friday. Alan Campbell photo

Nodding in the lunch room towards one of the grateful lunch recipients, Woodhouse said the elderly lady in question has no relatives around and lives by herself.

“She stays around and helps to clean up and has a take-out meal at the end,” she said.

“It’s mostly men that come here, of all ages. We get the odd new person. Hugh (outreach worker) sends people our way to come have lunch with us and to ‘talk to Dianne.’

“That’s why we’re here, not just to give them a lunch, but to connect them with others who can help.”

Anyone wanting to help Team Friday continue their good work, through volunteering or donations, can contact Woodhouse by email at Woodhouse.Dianne@gmail.com.

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Two members of St. Alban's church's Team Friday prepare sandwiches, which get delivered on the weekend to those who can;t make it to the free hot lunch in the park every Friday. Alan Campbell photo

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